Let’s celebrate women

Minister of Women Bathabile Dlamini has urged South Africans to celebrate the achievements of women as the world today celebrates International Women’s Day.

The Department of Women recognises this important day designated to elevate the status of women, who have triumphed over numerous political, economic and social hurdles to achieve success.

This year, under the theme ‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’, the day turns the spotlight to social protection systems for women, women’s access to public services and conceptualising infrastructure to achieve gender parity.

“Over the past 25 years, women have played a critical role in nation building and strengthening State institutions in South Africa. Today, women continue to face deeply patriarchal systems, which manifest in new ways and forms. Government and civil society must continue to squash misogynistic ideas that seek to relegate women to second class citizens,” the department said.

South Africans were urged to use the day to remember strong women leaders like Sophie de Bruyn, Albertina Sisulu, Charlotte Maxeke and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

The focus on social protection systems, and access to public services will be in the spotlight when government officials and civil society organisation delegate meet for the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) in New York from 11 to 22 March.

“Africa’s own Agenda 2063 states that the continent must end all harmful social practises and remove all barriers to quality health and education for women and girls,” the department said.

During the commission, the department said, Africa will speak with one voice in affirming that African women must have equal economic opportunities including rights to owning productive land, access to financial services, as well as equal access to market participation.

“South Africa will continue to lobby for inclusive radical economic transformation that sees women trade as equals in free markets,” the department said.

Access to services

The department said it would continue to work towards strengthening the National Gender Machinery – organs of State and civil society that champion women’s rights and empowerment of women in all spheres of society.

“The launch of the Sanitary Dignity Programme aims to empower young girls through the distribution of free sanitary pads. Period poverty in South Africa results in young girls missing school every month, and having to suffer the indignity and emotional trauma of not having the means to adequately respond to their menstrual cycle.

“The Sanitary Dignity Implementation Framework aims to ensure that production, distribution, storage, education on menstrual health management, as well as access to sanitation and disposal rests in the hands of women,” said the department.  

“Our work in the department aims to co-ordinate efforts by implementing departments to ultimately achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5 which speaks to Gender Equality and Women Empowerment. Importantly for South Africa, SDG5 talks to ending all forms of violence in public and private spaces for girls and women.

“More and more, we are seeing incidents which expose how girls and women are not safe in religious, cultural and educational spaces,” Dlamini in the statement.

“For government to ensure change in the living conditions of women, departments need to be more gender-responsive in their budgeting and auditing. All programmes of government must reflect gender and I call on all Director-Generals and Heads of Department to ensure performance assessments of senior managers reflect gender audits,” she added.

The department also called on civil society to celebrate the achievements of women, especially against the backdrop of the challenges women face on a daily basis. 

“We must teach our children to see the world through a gendered lens and to really understand gender equality. Do not gender activities like domestic work, sports and recreational activities. Most importantly, we must not rob young girls of their childhood by confining their activities to domestic chores,” said Dlamini.

Meanwhile, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula will on Friday host the first ever engagement session with 200 female junior officers in the South African National Defence Force.

“The main objective of the session is to not only commemorate International Women’ Day and develop a way forward on how the defence force can provide dedicated and focused programmes to empower female members, but it is an opportunity for Minister Mapisa-Nqakula to receive direct insights from the officers,” the Defence Department said in a statement.

The engagement, the department said, will also provide a platform for female officers to put questions to the minister on her priorities for the department for the year, ventilate all matters of interest pertaining to the work of the Department of Defence, and to gain knowledge of some of the issues faced by female junior officers in the SANDF.

“Women development and growth in the defence force is one of my priorities. However, without knowledge of some of the challenges faced by female officers, my hands are tied,” said Minister Mapisa-Nqakula. 

Minister Mapisa-Nqakula hopes to receive first-hand information from the officers in an environment where they feel safe to air their views without fear

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