Speech By Honourable Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, Minister For Women,Children And People With Disabilities During The Debate National Women`s Day

11 August 2010

Honourable Speaker
Members of Parliament

I would like to first express my appreciation to the millions of South African women who are participating in various initiatives and programmes across our country to mark National Women`s Month.

Women`s day is a day that highlights the courage of women in our country - past and present. It was on this day in 1956 when 20 000 women, carrying 100 000 petitions marched to the Union Buildings protesting against the inhuman act of having to carry passes in the urban areas.

These women delivered the petitions to the office of JG Strydom`s office. Women throughout the country had put their names to these petitions indicating their anger and frustration at having their freedom of movement restricted. Although Strydom was not at the Union Buildings to accept the petition, the women of South Africa sent a public message that they would not be intimidated and silenced by these unjust laws.

Since 1994, this day has been commemorated every year to recognize and recall the bravery of these women who risked arrest, detention, banning and forced exile to have their voices heard. This day in the calendar of our country serves to remind us that we need to review the path we have travelled and find solutions for the challenges facing us now.

Honourable Speaker, our programme for this month seeks to reach women of different social backgrounds across the different geographical localities. Various legislatures are convening Women`s Parliaments to provide platforms for ordinary women to engage on issues affecting them and to voice their concerns and challenges. I had the honour of participating in one of these forums in Mpumalanga last week.

We have also met university students in the Eastern Cape during the past weekend to discuss issues of education and the critical role young women have to play in transforming the gender demographics of our economy through the careers they choose.

We also gathered with women from various churches in East London and prayed together for a society free of all forms of abuse of women and girls. It is really disturbing that even as we commemorate women`s month, women continue to be attacked and raped. We have to do more to protect women and children from continuing incidents of gender-based violence.

In this regard, we are going to continue with our efforts to raise awareness and seek to address sexist stereotypes and attitudes that undermine the rights, dignity and wellbeing of women.

To mark National Women`s Day on Monday, we mobilized about 30 000 women who gathered at ABSA stadium in East London to celebrate this day. We received a visionary address by the President of our country, President Jacob Zuma.

Honourable Speaker, we are taking the approach that enables us to reach out to women in rural and urban areas, women who are employed and unemployed, women who are economically empowered and women who live in poverty - seeking to address the various limitations of patriarchy which negatively impacts affect their lives and limits their development.

Our country can now show many gains and achievements in promoting women`s rights and advancing gender equality. Under the leadership of the ANC, we are striving to ensure that the whole of our society accept the principle of 50/50 gender parity. We will in the near future be approaching this house for support and enactment of the Gender Equality Bill which is being developed by the Ministry for Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities.

We acknowledge that many challenges still persist and we need to work together to overcome them if we are to achieve our dream of a truly democratic and non-sexist state. The key issues that inform our programme for the Women`s Month include intensification of poverty eradication, rural development, economic empowerment of women and an effective response to the major challenge of violence against women and girls.

Honourable Speaker, I want to concentrate a bit today on speaking on the empowerment of women in the ICT sector - an area we tend to overlook quite often - and in the process link it to the educational and economic opportunities for the empowerment of women. We need to more strongly encourage girls to enter this previously male dominated field of study i.e. telecommunications and the world of technology in general. We must also encourage more young women to begin to enter this area at the tertiary level of education.

We have legislation in the ICT sector that is encouraging in this regard. Section 5(9)(b) of the Electronic Communications Act stipulates that the Authority must, in granting a license for provision of electronic communications network services, broadcasting services and electronic communications services promote the empowerment of historically disadvantaged persons including women. Section 6(8)(a) of the Broadcasting Act 4 of 1999 stipulates that the Corporation must develop a Code of Practice that ensures that the services and personnel comply with the constitutional principles of equality; and section 10(1) (g) of the Broadcasting Act 4 of 1999 stipulates that the public service provided by the Corporation must strive to offer a broad range of services targeting, particularly, women.

The empowerment of women in terms of the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa Act 13 of 2000, section 4(3)(k)states that the Authority may make regulations on empowerment requirements in terms of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act, 2003 (Act 53 of 2003). Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment in terms of this Act means the economic empowerment of all black people including women through diverse but integrated socio-economic strategies that include, but are not limited to increasing the number of black people that manage, own and control enterprises and productive assets, among others.

The E-commerce sectors are regulated by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002 and this Act requires that a national e-strategy must be developed to provide for ways of maximizing the benefits of electronic transactions to historically disadvantaged persons and communities.

Overall, the country has developed an ICT Charter for the empowerment of women. Honourable Speaker, I urge for the full implementation of this charter and all applicable pieces of legislation so that young women can be encouraged to enter into the ICT field, but at the same time, that women are provided with increasing opportunities to utilize the ICT sector towards their economic empowerment.

I have just concentrated on one aspect in the interest of time. In line with the theme for Women`s Month this year, let us work together for equal opportunities and progress for all women.

Wathinta abafazi, wathinta imbokodo

I thank you