Pretoria – Women should benefit most from land reform and rural development programme as they constitute the majority of people living in rural areas, says Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana.
Speaking during a debate on women as drivers of rural development in Parliament, Xingwana said progress had been made in the first three terms of the democratic government. However, a large number of people in rural areas still faced harsh conditions of poverty, lack of access to land and various basic services.
To address these challenges, government has committed to speed up the process of putting more land in the hands of the rural poor and provide technical skills and financial resources for productive use of the land.
“Most importantly, government committed to focus on the systematic promotion of agricultural co-operatives throughout the value chain, including agro-processing, access to markets, financing and basic necessities like fencing and irrigation systems.
“All of these commitments were made with a clear understanding that women constitute the majority of people living in rural areas and they should therefore be the largest number of beneficiaries in the country’s rural development programme,” Xingwana said.
Her department is focusing on issues of development of rural women and has already held a National Rural Women’s Summit in Limpopo in May this year to gather the views of rural women.
The department is also working with the Departments of Rural Development and Land Reform as well as Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to ensure that the aspirations of rural women are integrated into the Rural Development Strategy.
“Women in rural areas need opportunities to develop themselves,” said Xingwana.
She highlighted the issue of climate change, which was one of the major challenges facing women in rural areas. She warned that the risk it posed would have devastating effects on women who depend on natural resources for survival.
She said as South Africa hosts COP17 next month, the department would ensure that the perspective of women in rural areas and the African continent in general was heard.
“We will be convening a meeting of SADC Ministers of Gender and Women Affairs to consolidate our position in the build up to COP17. We will also be using National Children’s Day on 5 November to highlight the impact of climate change on children, our future generation,” said Xingwana. – BuaNews