Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
MECs and the leadership of the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government,
Leaders of political parties and civil society formations,
Fellow South Africans,
Bonke abesimame eRichmond,
Sanibonani. Molweni. Dumelang. Goeie dag. Lotjhani. Ndi matsheloni.
Namhlanje sibingelela oNozala esizweni sakithi esikhulu, kwelikaMthaniya!
oGogo bethu, oMama bethu, oDadewethu Kanye namadodakazi wethu.
Izinsika emindeneni yethu nase zweni Lethe.
Namhlanje umgubho wabo bonke abesifazane baseMzansi Afrika.
Today is a celebration of all the women of our great country, black and white, young, and old, urban, and rural, our mothers, our daughters, and our sisters.
Sixty-six years ago, more than 20,000 women marched to Pretoria to tell the apartheid Prime Minister that no, they would not carry the dompas.
They came as thousands of women from around the country, emabhasini, ezimotweni, ezitimeleni, ngisho nagezinyawo, bazincama babeletha izingane
Babekhona nababephuma KwaZulu-Natali, organised by our great women leaders, uMama Dorothy Nyembe, uMama Fatima Meer, uMama Florence Mkhize and others.
Some of the women travelling from KwaZulu-Natal were stopped by police and were forced to turn back.
But many did get to the Union Buildings, where they joined the march shouting their warning to the Prime Minister, “Strydom, Wathint Abafazi, wathint’ Imbokodo”.
Ngenxa yabesifazane bango 1956, because of their bravery and their sacrifices, the women of South Africa today have equal rights and opportunities that their grandmothers, great-grandmothers and great-great grandmothers were denied.
In South Africa today, girls learn alongside boys in our primary and secondary schools and receive equal education.
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.
Close to half of our Members of Parliament, judges and magistrates are women.
More than 60 per cent of public servants are women.
In South Africa today, women are champions.
Like our Banyana Banyana, who brought home their first Women’s Africa Cup of Nations trophy last week.
Just as the pioneers of the Women’s March of 1956 were role-models, the young women, and girls of today have no shortage of role models.
With the right support, they can become anything they want to be, from star soccer players to fighter pilots, judges, members of Parliament, businesswomen and entrepreneurs.
But for many young women, there are several obstacles they first need to overcome.
In South Africa, like many countries around the world, women bear the brunt of poverty.
Three-quarters of female-headed households live in poverty.
The slow growth of our economy and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly hard on women, youth, and persons with disabilities.
Lapha, eRichmond, iphethewe abesifazane, nearly half of all households are female-headed.
Since the advent of democracy, we have implemented policies to address the impact of poverty on women.
Mothers and grandmothers have access to comprehensive social services, including child support grants.
To support poor families, especially those from single parent households, learners are exempted from paying school fees and receive meals at school.
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.
On average, women still earn far less than men.
This was thrown into the spotlight with the victory of Banyana, whose players still earn less than the men’s national soccer team.
Women do not get paid for caring for the elderly, children, and other family members.
And the time that women spend doing work in the home limits their ability to earn money through employment or run their own businesses.
Siyazi lapha eRichmond, abantu abaningi baphelelwe imisebenzi, ikati lilala eziko emindenini eminingi.
There are limited opportunities, especially for young people.
We also have the problem in this country of young girls being taken out of school early to perform household duties, to care for younger siblings and to look for work to support the family.
We need to change this so that young girls can finish school.
Government is working to enable women to participate in the economy.
Gender equality will not be achieved unless women are financially secure and independent.
Here in the Umgungundlovu District Municipality we are providing temporary work opportunities to women through the Community Works Programme, the Expanded Public Works Programme and by supporting community caregivers and community health workers.
Female entrepreneurs, especially small business owners, are supported through the province’s Rural and Township Economies Revitalisation Strategy.
The provincial government, through the Radical Agrarian Socio-Economic Transformation programme, is also helping women access land for farming and get their produce to market.
So far, it has assisted over 3,500 farmers, with the majority being women and youth from rural areas like uMgungundlovu.
Women entrepreneurs need companies, departments, and customers to buy their products and services.
Government has committed to set aside 40 per cent of public procurement spend to women-owned businesses.
We have been holding workshops countrywide to equip women with skills to do business with both government and the private sector.
Between September this year and January next year, we plan to reach all 11 districts in KwaZulu-Natal.
To ensure better access to finance, we want entities like the Industrial Development Corporation, Public Investment Corporation and National Empowerment Fund to make further resources available to women-owned businesses.
Fellow South Africans,
Gender-based violence is a stain on our celebrations today.
Hardly a day goes by in this country without a report of women being attacked, being violated, and being killed by men.
This cannot continue.
The women of South Africa have had enough of being afraid.
Afraid to go out after dark.
Afraid of being attacked in their own homes
Afraid of being preyed on in the classroom.
Afraid for the safety of their children, even from their own relatives.
Afraid of being a woman in South Africa.
We should not see this as a women’s problem, when it is in fact inkinga yamadoda, a men’s problem.
It is a problem of men with no respect for women, who feel they can do what they like with their girlfriends or partners because they buy them airtime or groceries.
It is a problem of men who lack the maturity to accept the end of a relationship and hunt down their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends.
It is a problem of men who think culture, custom and religion empowers them to hit their wives, sisters, and daughters and to deprive them of their rights.
It is a problem of men who hold positions of influence and authority who prey on women and take advantage of them.
Here, in Richmond, like in many places around the country, sexual assaults and other violent crimes are connected to alcohol abuse, and many take place in or around places where alcohol is sold, amathaveni, amashibhini.
This is not the South Africa for which the women of 1956 marched.
hey did not sacrifice to see the end of the slavery of the apartheid, only for today’s women to live in prisons of fear.
Earlier this year, we passed three important laws that will strengthen the fight against gender-based violence.
These laws give greater protection to victims of domestic violence.
The new laws empower the police to enter premises without a warrant and, if necessary, arrest a suspect.
Police can also remove dangerous weapons from a suspect. Complainants will be able to apply for protection orders online.
New provisions expand the scope of the National Register of Sex Offenders, and place a legal responsibility on us all to report any sexual offences committed against vulnerable persons.
There are now far stricter conditions under which a suspect may be granted bail.
Perpetrators will get harsher sentences.
Silence is no longer an option.
Asikwazi ukuthula. We have to break the silence.
Silence is the dark corner in which women and children are abused, beaten, raped, and killed.
Silence is the dark cloud under which men allow their friends to ill-treat women, children, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community as a display of their manliness.
Silence is the cancer that eats away at women who protect their husbands, sons, partners, and boyfriends who abuse them, their children, and other women because they are financially dependent.
On this Women’s Day I want to call on every South African to play their part in the fight against gender-based violence and femicide by speaking out.
In 2021, we introduced a 100-Day Challenge to pilot interventions to fast-track the provision of services to survivors of gender-based violence.
In the sites where the challenge has been implemented, sexual offences cases have been reduced by more than 42 per cent, case backlogs reduced by 80 per cent and survivors of gender-based violence are able to access legal and psycho-social support services more easily.
In November we will hold the second Presidential Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide, where will do a detailed assessment of the implementation of our National Strategic Plan and chart the way forward.
Fellow South Africans,
We gather here today to mark Women’s Day deeply aware of the many challenges that the women of South Africa confront every day.
We gather here knowing that poverty, discrimination and violence continues to hold back the progress of the country’s women and girls.
But we also gather here to celebrate the achievements of many South African women, from all parts of the country, from all walks of life, who have overcome many obstacles to excel in their chosen fields.
We gather here to say that we will spare no effort to build a non-sexist society in which men and women have equal opportunities and prospects.
The women who marched on the Union Buildings 66 years ago demonstrated the power and resolve of the women of South Africa.
They were determined that women should take their rightful place in a free and democratic society.
As we honour their bravery, let us continue their struggle.
And let us achieve their vision.
I thank you.
Source: Government of South Africa