Address by the Minister Paul Mashatile on the occasion of the 35th World Congress of the International Alliance of Women

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25 Nov 2010

Programme Director
Deputy Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, Thokozani Khupe
Minister of Basic Education and President of the ANC Women’s League, Ms. Angie Motshega
Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motswaledi
Deputy Minister of Public Works, Ms. Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu
Ms. Nadi Albino from the UNICEF
Chairperson of International Alliance of Women Ms. Rosy Weiss
Chairperson of the Mmabatho Foundation for Women’s Development, Ms. Mmabatho Ramagoshi
Distinguished Leaders
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Thank you for inviting us to speak at the 35th World Congress of the International Alliance of Women.

Before I address this Conference I request that we observe a moment of silence in honour of one of the veterans of our liberation struggle and in particular the struggle for gender equity uMama uBertha Gxowa, who passed on last week.

UMama UGxowa was a selfless and humble servant of her people, forever emphasizing the need to ensure total emancipation of the women of our country.

As we observe 16 Days of Activism for no Violence Against Women and Children we must do so by recommitting ourselves to the values that uMama uGxowa stood for, the values of equality and dignity for all.

Programme Director, this important Congress is taking place in a year that in many ways is crucial to the advancement of the cause of women emancipation.

This year, we mark the 15th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as 10 years since nations of the world committed themselves to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, many of whom relate to the improvement of the lives of women.

This year is also 5 years since the African Union Protocol on the rights of Women was adopted.

The Conference is also taking place during a decade, which the African Union has declared as a Decade African Women.

Also of significance is that today we mark the International Day of No Violence to Women.

As we mark all these important milestones in our ongoing efforts to build a society rooted in gender equality, we must remind ourselves of the commitment we made during our struggle for liberation.

This is a commitment that; our liberation will not be complete, our mission not accomplished until we achieve the total emancipation of the women of our country.

When we made this commitment we were clear in our minds that there is a need to deal decisively with the scourge of the triple oppression that many of our women, especially African women, were subjected to.

This is the oppression of African women on the basis of class, gender and race.

It is for this reason that we identify with the theme for the 35th World Congress for the International Alliance of Women which is: “Equality Now! Working together to build a safe planet for All”.

Guided by this theme we must intensify our work to ensure gender equality in our society and to a build a safer environment for all.

We must work together to relive from the shoulders of the women of our country, the burden of institutional patriarchy as well as religious and cultural practices that discriminate against women.

In particular we must work together to build safer communities for our women, thus contribute towards unleashing their potential to participate fully and freely as citizens in their communities.

In South Africa, we are encouraged by the progress we are making in ensuring that the gains of freedom and democracy are also felt by the women of our country.

Enshrined in our Constitution, which is the supreme law of our country, is the kind of progressive society we seek to build, a society where no one will be discriminated against on the basis of race and gender.

We are encouraged that increasingly women are occupying positions of influence in a number of key areas in our society, such as in politics, in business, in religion, in sports and in many other areas of human endeavor.

However we accept that a lot more still needs to be done to ensure the total emancipation of women in our country and indeed in the whole world.

It is for this reason that we fully support this Conference and in particular its outcomes which among others include increasing awareness, engagement and advocacy for total women emancipation.

Programme Director, today marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children.

We must as we have done before use this important campaign to consolidate the gains we have made in building safer communities for all and in particular the women of our country.

Indeed we must use this campaign, working together with all stakeholders, to create a conducive environment for the women of our country to live up to their full potential and to contribute meaningfully, alongside their male counter-parts, in the reconstruction and development of our country.

No longer must the women of our country live in fear in their places of work, in their homes and at their places of leisure.

Tied to this is the need to also work together to build safer communities for the girl child.

Progamme Director, central to the achievement of the objectives of this Campaign is the need to ensure that the 16 Days of Activism become 365 Days of Activism of No Violence Against Women and Children.

At all times we must we must instill in our communities a culture of defending the rights of women and children. These include their right not to live in fear of violence and abuse.

We must continue to call for harsher sentences for those who perpetrate violence against women and children.

We must do all of these things once more to give practical meaning to the commitment we made during our liberation struggle that; our liberation will not be complete, our mission not accomplished until we achieve the total emancipation of the women of our country.

As the Department of Arts and Culture, we continue to engage in a number of initiatives aimed at creating opportunities for women to participate meaningfully in the arts, culture and heritage sector.

This we do as part of our overall commitment to ensure the total emancipation of the women of our country.
At the Social Cohesion Colloquim, we organized last year, amoung others we paid attention to the Promotion of Gender Equity, with a particular focus on traditional and emerging gender issues in contemporary South African society, including gender-based violence and teenage pregnancies.
Some of the recommendations from the Colloquim included the need to raise awareness on gender equality, especially in rural communities and the need to use education to ensure that tradition is not used as a tool to dis-empower women.
We have also organized Intergenerational Men’s and Women’s Dialogue. In these dialogues we use forms of art expressions to discuss how culture intersects with issues of gender equality.
We also use these Dialogues to raise awareness of the need to pursue gender equality in our society.

For the past two years the department has participated in the men in the making campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to expose boy learners to career opportunities as well as to link them up with male role models.

The Department supported the first meeting of the Southern Africa Theatre Initiatives Celebrating Women in Theatre and Dance Festival.

Objectives of the festival included creating a space for women to showcase their vast skill and talent through the presentation of various art productions.

During Women’s Month this year, we supported the setting up of the South African Business Women in the Arts, whose role is to fast-track the involvement of women in the business of the arts.

The Department also initiated an African Women Writers’ Symposium, whose purpose was to establish a network of African women writers for them to share experiences and exchange best practice.

We also expect that the establishment of the National Skills Academy for the Arts, whose process we have begun, will also benefit especially young women in the arts.

Furthermore as we reposition the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector as one of the key players in the South African economy, we will do so with a view to ensuring that the women of our country become the major beneficiaries of this effort.

It is our belief that collectively these interventions will go a long way in advancing the total emancipation of women and allowing them to fully participate in all aspects of our society.

Let us continue to work together to build a more humane society that takes care of its women and children.

Thank you.