Government committed to advancing the lives of women

President Cyril Ramaphosa has used his address at the Women’s Day event to encourage all sectors of society to advance and improve the lives of the women and girls of South Africa.

“We must mobilise all of society to support the women of our country on their road to empowerment and the improvement of their lives. As government, we are irrevocably committed to continuing the process of advancing and improving the lives of the women and girls of South Africa,” the President said on Wednesday in Pretoria.

He was addressing the commemoration of Women’s Day, which is being celebrated under the theme, ‘Accelerating Socio-Economic Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment’.

This theme highlights the need to ensure that all women have access to participate equally in all areas of human endeavour.

“We call upon other key role players who control resources and can open opportunities for women to do so. Business is well placed to play a key role in this process of helping to improve the lives of the women of South Africa,” Ramaphosa said.

The President outlined a number of areas that government and the private sector can address to advance and improve the lives of women.

He emphasised the importance of increasing the representation of women in all structures of society.

“Women must be well represented in key positions in government, in management, in the judiciary. The representation of women in decision-making structures continues to improve.

“In Cabinet, half of the Ministers are women. In Parliament, in the judiciary, in the public service, in the armed forces, in the police and in many local councils, we are getting closer to gender parity,” Ramaphosa said.

Acknowledging these gains, he said more needs to be done to achieve a society of true gender equality.

“There must be policies and laws that focus and advance the lives of women. Our laws and policies must have a bias towards improving the lives of women.

“Since the advent of democracy in 1994, we have put policies and laws in place to empower women, improve their lives and advance gender equality,” the President said.

While he called for the prioritisation of the advancement in education, he noted some achievements in that area.

This, as more female learners sit for matric than males. Female learners are achieving more Bachelor’s passes.

In addition, young women make up the majority of students enrolled in higher education institutions.

The President expressed concern on girls dropping out of school, often due to domestic responsibilities.

“As a society and as families and as a nation we must ensure that our girls stay at school and finish school. Women’s health outcomes continue to improve as a result of progressive policies around reproductive health, antenatal care, HIV/Aids and other communicable diseases.

“Even though women’s health outcomes have improved by a number of indicators, women still carry the largest share of the burden of HIV and are more vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases.

“Despite our laws, women and girls in many parts of the country still struggle to access reproductive health services,” the President said.

Equal representation in the economy

He called for the participation of women in the country’s economy to be improved.

“Our economy remains dominated by men. More women are unemployed than men. Women are more likely to work part-time, unskilled and semi-skilled jobs and for lower pay. Women are disproportionately responsible for unpaid care work.

“As a result of all these factors, women are more vulnerable to poverty, food insecurity and hunger. Even today, nearly three decades after the dawn of democracy, the face of poverty is a black women.

“The emancipation of women therefore cannot be achieved without economic empowerment. Women must also be breadwinners. They must have equal job opportunities and equal pay. They must be able to start, own and manage businesses,” the President said.

He said women need to have the financial security and independence to have control over their lives.

“We are determined to make the most of available resources to make a difference in the lives of young women, women with disabilities, rural women and LGBTQI+ women. We are making a difference in the lives of women in Small, Medium and Micro enterprises (SMMEs), in cooperatives and in the informal sector,” the President said.

Among other things, government is supporting women’s economic empowerment through public procurement.

Government has made a commitment to allocate at least 40% of public procurement to women-owned businesses.

“While government departments are working in earnest to award more contracts to women-owned businesses, we need to do much more. As things stand, less than a third of the companies listed on the government’s central supplier database are women-owned.

“We have trained more than 6,000 women entrepreneurs to take part in public procurement opportunities. The success of this programme has convinced us of the need to train many more entrepreneurs in their thousands.

“The African Continental Free Trade Area will give women-owned businesses in South Africa and across the continent access to new markets and opportunities. We are working with partners on opportunities for women’s employment and entrepreneurship in agriculture, manufacturing, technology, the oceans economy and others,” the President said.

He also mentioned that the green economy presents immense potential for women’s entrepreneurship and empowerment, especially in renewable energy.

“In a number of cities and towns there are many women who are established as green entrepreneurs working in recycling, in greening, in climate-smart agriculture and a number of other avenues.

We call on the business community to support women’s economic empowerment by partnering with small businesses as part of their green economy plans. There is also immense opportunity for young women in public employment initiatives,” the President said.

Presidential Employment Stimulus

Since it was established in 2020, the Presidential Employment Stimulus has provided work and livelihood opportunities to more than 1.2 million people. Of the participants in the programme, more than 60% are women.

The President has reiterated that the just transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient society protects the interests of women, as it does for all those affected, and that it offers opportunities for women workers and women-owned businesses.

Government is supporting women-owned businesses to expand and diversify. We are specifically increasing our support for women-owned SMMEs through the National Empowerment Fund, the Small Enterprise Finance Agency and others.

“Working with the financial services sector, we are looking to close the gender gap so that women can access banking services and credit for their businesses.

“As a country, we have the right policies and programmes in place. Led by the women of our country, we continue to develop policies that will advance their interests.

What we need now is to intensify the collective efforts of all social partners, including business, to do more to financially empower women,” the President said.

Source: South African Government News Agency