Address by Deputy Minister NtombazanaBotha as host of the South African dinner in honour of delegates attending the 33rd World Conference of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS)

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08 Jul 2008

Programme Director
Your Excellencies, Ministers
Chairperson of the Board of the World Association of Girl Guides & Girl Scouts, Ms Elspeth Henderson
President of the Girl Guides Association of South Africa, Ms Mbekeni
CEO of the World Association of Girl Guides, Ms MacPhail
Esteemed delegates and guests

Good evening!

It is, indeed, an honour and my pleasure to host this dinner tonight considered pleasure to host this dinner tonight on behalf of the Ministry and Department of Arts and Culture. What is even more delightful and inspiring for me is to be amongst people who I consider to be present day leaders and future leaders. I am particularly pleased to be in the company of a cohort of young women who represent the global leadership dedicated to social development.

In this regard, I would like, firstly, to congratulate the World Association of Girl Guides and the Girl Scouts for producing, over an extended period of time, girls and young women of such high calibre and integrity. Some of those girls and women are all of you attending this 33rd World Conference. In each of you resides the wealth of spirit and potential that places you in a position of tremendous responsibility to self, to others and humanity as a whole.

Secondly, I would like to congratulate those countries who were accepted into the WAGGGS last night. I know that this is a moment you will never forget but most importantly, please remember that that great moment happened in South Africa and I hope this will strengthen the relations between the people of your countries and our country.

The theme of this conference “Join in, Reach out, Change lives,” is a command which resonates with our government’s clarion call for this year, which is “Business unusual all hands on deck” to speed up change. Our government’s initiative with similar objectives as WAGGGS is the National Youth Service Campaign. This Campaign seeks to inculcate a culture of volunteerism amongst the youth of our nation, thereby fostering a sense of patriotism for greater social cohesion and nation-building.

We are honoured that the World Association of Girl Guides and Girls Scouts saw it fit to hold its conference in our country at this time in our history as this reinforces our own goals. The upliftment of people’s lives is a universal imperative, hence the relevance of the work that has been done by WAGGS for almost a century. What is equally laudable is that this work has been inclusive of all girls and women, irrespective of race, colour, culture or creed – an excellent demonstration of unity in diversity.

The South African Coat of Arms, as you may know, carries the motto in one of our indigenous languages: !KE E:/ XARRA / / KE meaning “Unity in Diversity” thus recognising the richness and depth of bonds amongst all peoples.

In our country we have no alternative but to join hands to support the processes of transformation and the reconstruction of our previously fragmented society and development initiatives to redress the social and economic inequalities. I believe that there is a lot we can learn from just the way the Guides are doing things in order to achieve our goal as a nation.

We recognise the contribution of WAGGGS not only in our context but in the world. We applaud your untiring efforts as you continue to render service to humanity. Guiding epitomises the positive human values that we wish to promote in our society and in the whole world.

The continent was privileged to host the 26th WAAAGS conference, in Kenya in 1987. Once again, we are honoured that the WAGGGS have come back to Africa and has chosen South Africa as the host country for its 33rd World Conference. We see this as an opportunity to make the South African public more aware of the value and contribution of the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. In South Africa we have our own terminology to describe the values that underpin your work. We talk of ubuntu (humanness) which encompasses love, selflessness, respect for human dignity and compassion, among others.

We are, however, sadly aware that, in spite of the many initiatives and efforts of organisations such as WAGGGS, there are still social ills that afflict, in particular, girls and women, as well as other vulnerable groups. The work that is undertaken by the WAGGGS fulfils the need to increase the defence of these vulnerable groups. This work contributes immensely to developing the sense of agency that is central to decision-making which can make the difference between a meaningful life and a life marred by destructive forces.

Many people are aware that the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are one of the most valuable platforms for young women to learn positive and life-affirming values. It is these values, such as service to others, respect for all humanity and compassion that form the basis of the socially cohesive nation we are striving to create. All governments across the world, particularly those one hundred and forty two (142) that are signatory to the Millennium Development Goals, have committed to assuring that all children, in particular girls, have equal access to holistic educational opportunities to which they were hitherto denied.

The under-education of girls is a well established fact throughout the world and major concern for us in South Africa. This severely undermines the development potential of girls, particularly of girls born into poor circumstances, which subsequently impacts on various aspects of life, such as health.

World Education, an organisation committed to elevating literacy levels among girls and women, has established, through research, the link between low levels of literacy and health. Girls and Women are at high risk of contracting diseases such as TB and HIV and AIDS because of a lack of access to education. It is the responsibility of all of us to assure access to education and other services for all children.

South Africa, regrettably, has its share of individuals who are intent on carrying out nefarious activities. It is a shame that we are faced with awful social generation such as the cruel and unconscionable abuse of children. Children, in particular girls, are trafficked, prostituted and sold into child slavery.

Molo Songololo, a non-governmental organisation based in South Africa and focused on the healthy and wholesome development of children, has been key to bringing such issues to light. Together with other organisations, Molo Songololo is part of the fight to eradicate this blight on our society, using media such as informative television programmes and educational comic strips.

Throughout the world, governments are working hard to eradicate the exploitation of children in this and other ways. Such exploitation has already adversely affected schooling and access to higher education and other opportunities for self - advancement for millions of children.

I wish to specifically congratulate and recognise some of the work that the Girl Guides in South Africa are currently doing. This includes, for example, providing life skills training, encouraging literacy through sewing, baking and art as well as leadership training and computer literacy programmes.

These programmes also resonate with our Government’s Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition in South Africa (JIPSA), a programme that seeks to make young people market-ready thus increasingly more employable. I anticipate that the work being undertaken by the South African Girl Guides Association in conjunction with the Department of Education on Life Skills Orientation will yield the much-desired result of informed young people who have a stronger sense of agency.

I would like, for a moment, to focus on the Guide Promise. I used to recite this promise too when I was a Girl Guide in the 1950s. Then, of course, we paid allegiance to the Queen in Great Britain – “I promise on my honour that I will do my best; to do my duty to God, my Queen and Country, to help other people at all times and to obey the Guide Law.” Well, it has been amended since then to be universally applicable.

The pledge of the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts is simple yet very powerful and captures the essence of ubuntu and what it means to be human. This is the kind of ethos we wish to see take root among the youth in particular and the world in general. Quite simply, we all want to make the world a better place. In South Africa specifically, we want to rebuild our nation along the values you epitomise. As such, the Girl Guides and Girl Scouts are pivotal to this dream and it is for this reason our government will fully support this movement.

The Guide Motto – “Be Prepared” also gives direction to developing girls and young women who seek to ensure that, as they follow these guiding principles and laws, they become strong women who are better prepared to contribute meaningfully to society as a whole. As a consequence, Guiding becomes a life-long endeavour. It teaches accountability for self and others that comes with responsible citizenship as girls and women evolve first into leaders and then into role models.

The preparation for the leadership that is imbued early on in guiding is critical to the emergence of women leaders who are key to societal well-being across the world. We must pay tribute to the founders of this organisation, Lord and Lady Baden-Powell who recognised the need to provide a platform for girls and young women. In this space, Girl Guides and Girl Scout have found a safe place of knowledge acquisition, knowledge sharing and opportunities for personal growth.

The contribution of the founders of this organisation has been so significant that in South Africa, places of interest have been named after them. For example, there is a scenic drive in the Western Cape and another in Mafikeng in the North West Province named after the Baden-Powells.

Our government’s policy is one of equal gender representation at all levels of leadership. We consistently promote gender equity and the representation of all groups in decision-making positions. We acknowledge that parents, leaders and innovators in all aspects of life need to promote, without hesitation, gender parity in all development.

Furthermore, we applaud the exposure to leadership development that WAGGGS affords girls and young women, preparing them to participate holistically, not only in their home country but as global citizens.

To the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scout, I say, WELL DONE.

In conclusion I thank you for granting me to this privilege of hosting this occasion. Please enjoy the cultural programme featuring the Black Tie Ensemble, the Willowmoore High School Marimba band and the Music Academy of Gauteng. They are a showcase of young talent that has been nurtured overtime. I hope you will also have the opportunity to see some of the remarkable sites around the Province of Gauteng, such as The Cradle of Humankind in Maropeng, the world famous Kruger National Park and the Vredefort Dome in the Free State which has recently been declared a World Heritage Site.

I hope you will enjoy your stay in South Africa. Of course, you are welcome to come again.

Remember, we will be hosting the Fifa World Cup in 2010. That will be a great opportunity to enjoy South African hospitality and ubuntu. There will be so much more to experience and enjoy including soccer.

Enjoy the dinner and the entertainment

I thank you.