‘Women empowerment cannot be left to market forces’

2012-08-06 12:35
Xolani Mbanjwa
It has become clear that the empowerment of women cannot be left to market forces, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana has said.

Announcing the month-long programme to celebrate women’s month in Pretoria this morning, she decried the recent findings by the Businesswomen’s Association (BWA) South Africa Women in Leadership census that found that some companies still have no representation of women in executive and directorship positions.

According to the research, women hold only 4.4% of managing director and chief executive positions in the country, while only 5.3% are board chairpersons and 15.8% are directors.

In the public sector women hold only 35% of all senior management positions – a scenario Xingwana described as “sad”.

“It has become clear that the empowerment of women cannot be left to market forces.

We are confident that through the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, we will be responding to the calls made by BAW and many women of our country who find themselves discriminated against on the basis of their gender,” said Xingwana.

“We are painfully aware that financial dependency on husband’s, fathers, partners and family members has increased women’s vulnerability to domestic violence, rape, incest, abuse and murder. We remain convinced that empowering women will help us win the war against poverty, inequality, unemployment and abuse,” said Xingwana.

She made a call for the public and private sectors to do more to ensure that the vision for a better life for all prioritises women’s needs.

Xingwana expressed concern that the latest figures on women abuse showed an upward trend as this undermined the gains made since 1994.

She also called for more protection of the rights of lesbians, gays and members of the transgender, bi-sexual and inter-sex communities – to protect democracy.

Government would launch the National Council Against Gender-Based Violence on August 25 to provide help to victims and survivors of gender-based violence.

The council would also adopt measures to address all forms of violence including for children and people with disabilities.

The council would be chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and a dedicated secretariat would be appointed to the department of women, children and people with disabilities.

President Jacob Zuma will address this year’s Women’s Day celebrations at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Thursday as part of the programme to celebrate women’s month.

A night vigil will be held on Wednesday in Tshwane’s City Hall.

A sod-turning ceremony will be held at the Lilian Ngoyi Square where the Women’s Memorial site will be unveiled.

One of the main events will be a march to the Union Buildings where government leaders, dignitaries and women will march from Lilian Ngoyi Square at Sammy Marks in Pretoria to the Union Buildings on Thursday.

The march is pegged as a re-enactment of the historical 1956 women’s march against apartheid.