“As our topic today is “Women united in moving South Africa forward” I am reminded that as women we have much in common but we are also uniquely crafted for many very different purposes.

We are young, we are old, we are abled in many respects and disabled in others, some of us live in rural areas, some of us are city girls, some have been previously advantaged and others are presently advantaged, some have been previously disadvantaged and far too many are presently disadvantaged.

We have been each other’s champions and - sadly - we have been each other’s worst enemies. Unity will take both discipline and a renewing of our minds - that default mode of ‘preferring men’ for example - is a good place to start!

We are not less but we are different - let’s give ourselves and each other permission to be ourselves. As Dr. Seuss says, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

While we as a nation are collectively grappling with the issue of land and land ownership, the ACDP recognises that women are legitimately concerned - we want a truly integrated and inclusive economy and fair and just land reform but without gender equity, development initiatives and opportunities are likely to be largely in the hands of - and benefitting - men.

As women gain ownership and control of property and/or land they should have stronger bargaining power, higher incomes and more influence in communities and within their own households. Research however, shows that even when women own property and land, their husbands and other male family members are still perceived as household heads and have better access to resources.

The ACDP supports policy that is gender sensitive as empowering women and girls, will require interventions that go beyond land redistribution. Power relations and gender norms within a household play a major role. It is not enough for a woman to know her rights - men in the household must be equally informed.

The degree of equality or inequality in both rural and urban society is dependent on what children learn from the role models in their homes and schools. Families and teachers should be encouraged to share responsibilities and pass on skills - including agricultural and technical skills and knowledge - equally to both daughters and sons, girls and boys, from a young age.

Incentives for sharing domestic responsibilities - for example - should be a consideration when talking about empowerment of women and in this regard the Labour Laws Amendment Bill - originally proposed by the ACDP and passed by the National Assembly and the NCOP today - is a positive step toward building a culture of sharing both child care and other domestic responsibilities.

In our industrialised world - training in new technologies is also important - and even more so for women - if one is to be competitive and successful in business and have the edge in terms of knowledge and skills.

The ACDP believes that in moving forward, basic services must always remain a top priority - water, sanitation, health, electricity, schools, early childhood development facilities and so much more. The goal is to one day say - ‘these services play a major role in empowering both men and women’ - and we will get there - however for now no argument can convince me that women are on an equal footing with men - even where people have the best intentions.”


22 August 2018