Statement by the Minister Lulu Xingwana at the Women’s Day event at the South African Pavilion Shanghai Exhibition

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09 Aug 2010

Hon. Ms. Zhu Ming, Vice President of Shanghai Women’s Federation
Hon. Ms. Bongi Maria Ntuli, Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry
Hon. Ambassador NN Ntshinga, South African Ambassador to China
Hon. Mr VM Khumalo, Consul-General in Shanghai and Commissioner-General
Hon. Ms. Nomatemba Tambo, Consul General in Hong Kong,
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am delighted to be here today in Shanghai as we celebrate and commemorate a day, which is very important in the South African national calendar.

On this day, which is our National Women’s Day, we honour the role of women in our society and we also pay tribute to the women in the liberation movement who through their efforts contributed in bringing freedom to our country. In this way we also reaffirm the role that women can play in advancing society towards achieving a better life for all.

During this entire month of August we commemorate the historic struggles and sacrifices of South African women, who helped bring democracy and opportunities for all. 

Some brave freedom women such as Ruth First and Dulcie September paid the ultimate price and died at the hands of assassins of the apartheid government. They paid with their lives so that today we can be free.

Many courageous women spent time in jail or experienced bannings and detentions. Many helped to lay the foundations for the new, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

While women’s struggles for emancipation and against segregation, colonialism and apartheid can be traced back to the first decades of the last century, a turning point was the historic march on the 9th August 1956 of 20 000 South African women, black and white, led by Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophie de Bruyn to show solidarity against the pass laws.

This single event, that embodied the popular women’s movements and struggles of many decades, made an immense contribution to national liberation. Through their actions, they helped to lay the foundations for the building of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic country. It is for that reason that our democratic government declared August as Women’s Month.

This is why on this day we also renew our pledge to build a non-racial, non-sexist, united, democratic and prosperous South Africa as envisioned in our Constitution.

On this day, we look at how far we have come and also how far we should still go to win the fight against poverty and underdevelopment, to achieve gender equality and the full empowerment of women and the girl child.

The theme of this year’s Women Month’s celebrations is “working together for Equal Opportunities and Progress for all Women”.

As the national government, we have initiated a number of activities, a programme of action for Women’s Month, some of which I shall mention here today:

  • Our main National Day celebrations takes place in Buffalo City in the Eastern Cape and will be addressed by President Jacob Zuma.

As the Ministry of Arts and Culture, it is also important that in this month we also recognize the contribution of women in the arts, culture and heritage sectors. On this day we also pay tribute to women in the arts who contribute their creativity, knowledge and skills to the cultural development of South Africa.

South African Women artists in Shanghai
This is why we thought it important that we bring a delegation of women artists to perform here at the Expo. I am pleased that our outstanding women artists - Sibongile Khumalo, Debra Fraser, Loveline Madumo, and Thandiswa Mazwai could join us here today and share their expertise with us. Through their wonderful music, they are contributing to our sustained cultural development and asserting the power of women in the shaping of our national culture.

The Dulcie September Memorial Lecture
On 19 August 2010, we will, in partnership with the University of the Western Cape, host a memorial lecture in honour of one of the struggle icons, Ms Dulcie September who was killed in exile in France by apartheid assassins.

The lecture will be delivered by Margaret Busby, an award-winning writer, editor, critic, consultant and broadcaster, Dr John Daniel, a researcher and Ambassador Barbara Masekela.

Declaration of Women’s Graves as Heritage Sites
As part of our national legacy projects for honouring the unsung heroines of the liberation struggle, together with the South African Heritage Resources Agency my Ministry and Department will on 20 August 2010 in Soweto declare as national heritage sites the graves of struggle veterans, Charlotte Maxeke (the founder of the ANC Women’s League forerunner), Lillian Ngoyi and Helen Joseph.

Launch of the Sarah Bartmann Centre of Remembrance Architectural Concept Design
The full story of Sarah Bartmann, the Khoi-San woman, taken to Europe and put on display for Western eyes, is yet to be told. In order to convey this marginalized history, heritage and culture of the Khoi and San people to new generations and to acknowledge their contribution to our liberation struggle, on 22 August we will unveil the Sarah Bartmann Centre of Remembrance Architectural Concept Design in Hankey, Eastern Cape Province.

The concept design process was managed and administered by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. The centre will provide interpretative space in memory of the life of Sarah Bartmann and the heritage of the Kkoi and San people.

African Women Writers’ Symposium

The African Union has declared that the decade 2010 – 2020 will be the Decade of African Women and a roadmap of milestones and activities is being planned throughout the African continent.

As part of our contribution to the development of African women, we shall host an African women writers’ symposium in Johannesburg from 25-26 August 2010 under the theme: Women’s words: African worlds: renewing a dialogue between African women writers and women of African descent.

We have invited writers from a number of African countries including Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, as well as South Africans writers to be part of this discussion to strengthen women’s role in the literary arts on the African continent. (Invited writers include Tsitsi Dangarembga of Zimbabwe, Lola Shoneyin of Nigeria, Shailja Patel of Kenya as well as our own literary greats such as Lauretta Ngcobo, Miriam Tlali and Elinor Sisulu)

Concert celebrating Women’s achievements

We shall mark the end of Women’s Month through holding a concert featuring women artists and thanking them for the critical role they have played during the 2010 FIFA World Cup held on our soil. Great South African women musicians including Siphokazi, Abigail Kubheka, Dorothy Masuka, Thandi Klassen and Mahothella Queens will be part of this celebration.

These are only some of our contributions through the arts to the social, cultural and economic development of South Africa and the rest of the African continent.

Through women’ empowerment in arts and culture we are also trying to build our rural economies and showcasing the role that the arts especially crafts can play in rural development.

Through sharing our arts and culture with our Chinese hosts and with all the visitors to the Expo, we are strengthening our relations with our Chinese counterparts, improving cultural understanding and co-operation.

Our presence here in Shanghai also contributes to the building of South South relations and in the spirit of  Bandung, together we are strengthening Africa-Asia initiatives.

We believe that internationalism is the cornerstone of all our efforts to build a more inclusive world and to nurture a reality in which we all have a greater say in world affairs through strengthening multilateralism.

In conclusion, I am reminded of the Chinese proverb “Women hold up half the sky”. It is this proverb that resonates with the strength of the women of the South, the South African women who in 1956 faced the might of the apartheid state and declared: “You have struck the woman, you have struck a rock”.

Every day we continue to give added value to what it means to hold up half the sky.

We believe that the struggle for women’s equality and empowerment cannot be stopped and will not fail.

This is why we are expediting our efforts to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and this is also why we contribute to the realization of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

We believe that we must always move forward in working towards women’s emancipation and recognizing the unique role of women in building a new world order.

Forward to the Decade for African Women!

As we say back home, Malibongwe igama lamakhosikhasi

Thank you.