President Cyril Ramaphosa says the economic empowerment of women remains an important pillar in the battle against the scourge of gender based violence and femicide.
He was addressing the nation through the weekly Presidential Newsletter.
The President said as the world celebrates International Women’s Day later this week, society must reflect on how it can do better to empower women.
“The economic empowerment of women is an important pillar of our struggle to end gender-based violence and femicide. We have recognised that unequal access to resources and economic opportunity makes it more difficult for women to escape situations of abuse and violence.
“On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we call on men and women across society to strengthen the fight against gender-based violence.”
President Ramaphosa said government has embarked on several efforts to transform the economy to the benefit of women and their emancipation.
“As a country, we must shift economic power into the hands of women through, among other things, earmarking 40% of all public procurement for women-owned businesses.
“To achieve this, government has been providing training to women entrepreneurs so that they can tender for government work and successfully provide the goods and services that government needs. To date, we have trained more than 6 000 women-owned enterprises.”
He said through government’s Women Economic Assembly held over the past two years, opportunities have been created for women-owned businesses in several industries.
“These include agreements for women farmers to provide large retailers with produce ranging from dried chillies to chicken. A new black women-owned textile manufacturing plant began production in October last year, with support from the Industrial Development Corporation [IDC].
“As part of the commitment of the motor industry to gender transformation, four new car dealerships owned by black women were also launched last year.
“[The] IDC has earmarked approximately R9 billion to invest in women-led businesses. Other entities, including the Public Investment Corporation and the National Empowerment Fund, have also committed to establish special purpose vehicles to support women-owned businesses.”
The President emphasised that for women who are in the jobs market, the gender pay gap must become a priority.
“[We] need to ensure that women and men receive equal pay for work of equal value. Across the economy, women are paid on average less than their male counterparts doing similar work. Ending the gender wage gap must therefore be a priority of all social partners, especially government, business and labour, if we are to achieve an equal and just society.”
President Ramaphosa emphasised that the first step to empowering women starts by ensuring that as young girls, they are given “equal access to education and an equal chance to succeed”.
“They need to be able to pursue studies of their choice, especially in areas that have traditionally been the preserve of men. One of the achievements of the democratic South Africa dispensation is that girls and boys are equally represented in primary and secondary education.
“It is significant that last year, more females passed the matric exams and got more distinctions than their male counterparts. There are currently more female students enrolled at institutions of higher learning than males.
“This is great progress but it has yet to translate into the economy, where women are more likely to be unemployed than men. Around half of all women in South Africa are unemployed, including those who have given up looking for work. Moreover, on average, women still earn far less than men.”
The President said the equal treatment of women must also extend beyond the school yard and the jobs market.
“We must overcome the idea that a woman’s place is in the home. Even women who have jobs are often expected to do housework and childcare, making it more difficult for them to find employment, earn a decent wage, be promoted or start a business.
“This is the situation we are determined to change in South Africa and advocate for change across the world.”
The President said although government’s efforts to empower women can be celebrated, work needs to continue for women to reach their full emancipation.
“On this International Women’s Day, we should celebrate these achievements. But we must also recognise that the gap between the economic position of men and women is still huge.
“We must use this day to reaffirm our shared commitment to work even harder to narrow that gap and to, within a generation, get rid of it.”
Source: South African Government News Agency