Speech by Minister Susan Shabangu at the launch of Women’s Month

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30 Jul 2015

Programme Director, Ms Sophie Ndaba
Honourable Minister of Arts and Culture
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Honourable Members of Parliament
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen
Members of the media

We converge here a day before the African Union (AU) Pan African Women’s Day which is celebrated annually on the 31st of July. We are encouraged by this AU decision because it recognises one of the oldest women’s formations in Africa, The Pan African Women’s Organisation (PAWO) formed in 1962.

Once more African women made history by setting the tone and on the 31st July 1962 when they launched first Conference of African Women in Dar es Salaam in Tanganyika under the leadership of Jeanne Martin, Diallo Virginia and one of our own, Adelaide Tambo.

The formation of PAWO no doubt inspired the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now known as the AU, formed on the 25th of May 1963, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The same way as the adoption of the Women’s Charter inspired the adoption of the Freedom Charter in our country.

This year marks 59 years since the 1956 Women’s march to the Union Buildings where women protested against the pass laws which among other things restricted their freedom of movement. The march to the Union Buildings in 1956, by 20 000 women, was to challenge an oppressive system that has deepened inequalities in terms of race and gender, and has contributed to the current triple challenges of inequality, unemployment, and poverty.

These burdens are heaviest on the women. Therefore when women of South Africa converged at the Union Buildings 59 years ago, from every corner of South Africa, they created an enduring legacy of our country’s history.

In recognition of this legacy, the South African government declared 9 August National Women’s Day, in order to annually celebrate the women’s contribution to the liberation of the country and their achievements since 1994. Further, government declared August Women’s Month as a tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 and to continue raising awareness, to show commitment, to ensuring the achievement of the aims and aspirations of the women of 1956.

Women’s Month is therefore a time when we not only celebrate but reflect on progress, both the achievements and the challenges we face in our struggle for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

It is therefore befitting that as we celebrate these 59 years we pause to reflect on the progress made since the dawn of democracy and assess our achievements in the realisation of a truly non-sexist, non-racial, democratic and united South Africa.

As we celebrate the 59th Anniversary of the women’s march we are also mindful that 2015 marks the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Charter. We must use the occasion of the 59th Anniversary to chronicle the immense contribution of women in the drafting of the Freedom Charter and in the struggle for liberation. In 1841 one of the earliest socialists, Charles Fourier wrote:

“The change in a historical epoch can always be determined by the progress of women towards freedom, because in the relation of woman to man, of the weak to the strong, the victory of human nature over brutality is most evident. The degree of emancipation of women is the natural measure of general emancipation.”

Since the turn of the century, women have emerged as primary catalyst for protest against apartheid colonialism. As we move towards the 60th Anniversary of the women’s march, we need to recognise the stalwarts that confronted colonialism, apartheid, pass laws, land dispossession etc. The role played by women in the history of South Africa cannot be complete until we take a journey that begins from the era of Manthatise (the female warrior), Princess Mnkabayi, Princess Mantsopa, Queen Modjadji, Charlotte Maxeke and her ilk through to the generation of 1956 and beyond.

This journey has to depict the leadership role that these foremothers provided in the various stages of the evolution of our society and link it to the 21st Anniversary of the democratic South Africa and the impact of the policies of the country in changing the quality of life of South African women.

As early as 1913, under the leadership of Charlotte Maxeke and others, women staged a daring combat against oppression and exploitation. They protested against discriminatory laws that restricted free movement of Africans – like the pass laws whose rejection triggered the massacre in Sharpeville, in 1960.

We have just laid to rest one of our stalwarts, Isithalandwe Mme Ruth Mompati. We use the occasion of the 59th Anniversary to salute her and other women who gave their lives, selflessly, so that we can all be free. We pay homage to women leaders in the calibre of Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoye, Helen Joseph, Amina Cachalia, Ray Alexander Simons, Dorothy Nyembe, Albertina Sisulu, Rahima Moosa, Adelaide Tambo, Bertha Gxowa, Gertrude Shope, Sophie Du Bruin, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and many others.

In his first State of the Nation Address in 1994 President Nelson Mandela cautioned the first democratically elected Parliament that:

“Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression…Our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.”

Since this statement, South Africa has made significant legislative reforms, developed and implemented policies and programmes based on the Constitution (1996) encompassing the Bill of Rights which seeks to promote and protect women’s rights at home, in communities and in the workplace.

This year South Africa also celebrates 21 years of democracy and this is an important symbolic and real milestone in our history. We need to consolidate the significant milestones of women’s emancipation and gender equality.

The 2015 Women’s month is a build-up towards the 60th Anniversary of the Women’s march and is aimed at achieving the following:

  • To educate the nation about the role women played in the emancipation of the continent
  • To document the correct stories of heroines of South Africa
  • To celebrate women who have made it in all spheres of life in the continent
  • To honour and celebrate the girls of 1976 and recognise the role played by young women in the liberation struggle
  • To unite South African women
  • To celebrate the struggles of the women over the decades and a rejuvenation of our commitment to strive for a society that is truly non-racial, non-sexist, united, democratic and free of all forms of discrimination
  • To remember the history of Women’s struggle in South Africa and to continue writing our history as it has to evolved.

The Women’s Month programme kick-starts the celebrations that will culminate into festivities of the 60th Anniversary of the women’s march.

All events will be hosted in a spirit that befits the marches of women against passes from as early as 1913, taking the nation down memory lane with respect to the role played by women in the history of South Africa.

The programme will also highlight government initiatives and the impact of the policies of the country in changing the quality of life of South African women.

Our National Women’s Day event will be held at the Harry Gwala Multipurpose Sports Centre in Zamdela, Sasolburg, Free State Province. The event will start with a symbolic march in recognition of the women of 1956 and will culminate into a mass rally.

It is important to note that every week of August 2015 in terms of our programme will focus on a specific sub-theme in celebration of our country.

Week 1: Celebrating Women in Fashion

The week will be dedicated to celebrating profiling women who are cracking it in the fashion industry and as a result contribute to job creation.

Various media platforms will be utilised where we will have a collage of these women and their contribution in dressing the nation. The SABC will partner with DOW in this programme.

Week 2: Celebrating Women in Film

The department in partnership with the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) will have two screenings produced or directed by women or telling stories of women. The screenings will target young people and will take place as follows:

  • 10 August 2015: Jabulani
  • 14 August 2016: Kwamashu

The screenings will be extended to other provinces as we move towards the 60th Anniversary.

Week 3: The fight against human trafficking and labour exploitation of women

The week will focus on the fight against trafficking of women and children as well as the exploitation of women from our neighbouring countries with specific focus on Lesotho women. South Africa will partner with Lesotho government and the following activities are planned for the week:

  • 21 August 2015: Symposium focusing on Labour exploitation and related issues.
  • 22 August 2015: A symbolic march at the Maseru border gate where both South African and Lesotho women will give their memorandum of demands to authorities representing their countries. The march will call for an end to human trafficking and request more stringent measure of combating trafficking of women and children.
  • 22 August 2015: The march will culminate into a rally on a farm where the leadership of both countries will have an opportunity to address women. The rally will be held at Mooderpoort farm, the home of Mantsopa.

Week 4: Economic Empowerment (Financial Inclusion of women)

In line with the AU themes of the African Women’s Decade and the new mandate of the Department of Women’s socio-economic empowerment; the department will host high-level engagements on the mechanisms and modalities for women’s financial inclusion in the economy and all sectors of the country.

  • 4-5 September 2015: Trade Fair and Exhibition of Women in South Africa and Zimbabwe to be held in Musina, Limpopo province. Women from both countries will showcase and sell their products from clothes to crafts.
  • 9 September 2015: Techno-girl roundtable – The department will host The New Age (TNA) business breakfast focusing on the empowerment of young women in the fields of STEM. The business breakfast will culminate into a high level panel discussion on how to strengthen the current Techno-Girl job-shadowing programme

Women’s month 2015 will be celebrated under the theme:

“Women United In Moving South Africa Forward”

The theme is in line with the 2014-2019 government theme and recognises the need for women to embrace unity of purpose as we consolidate the gains of our democracy.

It is informed by the well documented unity of the women of 1956. It is therefore a clarion call for women to emulate the women 1956 and unite as we continue to fight the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to unveil the look and feel for August 2015…

The logo captures “We are Africa” theme and is centred around the AU theme for 2015 as “the Year of Women’s Empowerment and Development towards Africa Agenda 2063”. Thus it is a celebration of the successes and milestones achieved by African women to date, whilst continuing with the struggle for the total emancipation of women in our society. The four women in the logo represent unity in diversity and it is a call for women to unite as we move towards the 60th Anniversary of the women’s march.

I take this opportunity to also launch our social media platforms that were non-existent such as the Department of Women (DoW) You Tube channel, Instagram and Google+.

Today we also launch our very first online radio which will be accessible through the media room menu item on the Department of Women’s website. The radio will be running continuously and can be accessed anytime from today. The online radio will feature speeches, interviews, and media statements relevant to the work of the department. The content will be continuously refreshed to cover the emerging work of the department.

Ladies and gentlemen, our clarion call to women of our country is to have unity of purpose as we move South Africa forward. Let us all rally behind the 2015 Women’s month theme: “Women United in Moving South Africa Forward”.

I thank you.

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