Pretoria-This year’s Women’s Month programme has been effective in highlighting the continued marginalisation of women in the South African economy.
This is the view of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Minister, Lulu Xingwana. South Africa annually dedicates August to commemorate the aspirations and achievements of women.
“While South Africa’s general unemployment is estimated at 25, 7 percent, amongst African women this figure stands at 50 percent.
“About 41 percent of these women live in the former Bantustans where economic prospects are extremely limited,” said Xingwana at the closing event for Women’s Month in the Free State which included the opening of a clinic, sod turning for a pre-school building and the launch of a number of projects aimed at empowering women in the area.
Women’s Month is also done to commemorate the historic 1956, August 9 march by about 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest the extension of passes restricting freedom of movement during the apartheid government.
Minister Xingwana said the majority of women are still found in low paying jobs such as domestic work; tellers in the retail sector; or as shop-floor workers in the textile sector that has been shedding jobs over the past years.
A number of women are also in the informal sector of the economy, with little prospects of economic advancement she said.
She said one of the advances of Women’s Month 2011 was securing the commitment from the Department of Economic Development that the New Growth Path, which is a programme of Government to create 5 million jobs over the next 10 years, will now have clear gender indicators.
“We will use these indicators to measure whether women are included in job creation measures in the sectors that are targeted to advance the country’s economic growth.
“One of these is sectors is mining where there is still severe underrepresentation of women, estimated at 12 percent,” said the Minister.
During the women’s month, the Department of Mineral Resources enhanced its efforts to increase opportunities for women’s participation in mining including awarding of bursaries to young women to study for various careers within the mining sector.
“During Women’s Month, we also had firm commitment that Khula Enterprise, a government entity tasked with financing of small and medium enterprises will, from this financial year, allocate 50 percent of all its new business loans to women.
“This development requires that we mobilize women to submit business proposals and grab these opportunities for business funding,” she said.
Xingwana further said the severe underrepresentation of women in management and executive positions in the private sector emphasizes the need for urgent intervention to improve the status of women in society.
“In view of this worrying trend that undermines the objective of equality, my department will advance its efforts to develop the Gender Equality Bill.
“This Bill will enforce 50/50 gender parity in both the public and private sector,” she said. The Bill should be submitted for consideration by Cabinet by March 2012.
While economic empowerment was the primary focus for this Women’s Month, Xingwana acknowledged that violence against women and children remains the most serious scourge facing women in South Africa.
“During the August Month, we participated in a gay and lesbian conference in Khayelitsha and expressed our commitment as government to do everything possible to protect the right to sexual orientation as enshrined in our Constitution.
“Such interventions will be guided by the proposals of the Task Team on lesbians and gays which are currently developing an intervention plan against what is termed “corrective rape” and other related violations and concerns,” she said.
The Department is also establishing an Advisory Council, which will be a multi-sectoral structure that is going to coordinate the implementation of the 365 National Action Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children.-BuaNews