Countries that expand opportunities for women and girls in education and work achieve greater prosperity and social development, writes Chichi Maponya, chair of Brand South Africa, on International Women’s day.
International Women’s Day, originally called International Working Women’s Day, is celebrated on March 8 every year, and in different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from a general celebration of respect, appreciation, and love towards women to a celebration for women’s economic, political, and social achievements.
Acknowledged as architects of society, women are admired for their strength in building the family unit and homes, as well as their contributions to communities, societies and nations.
One of the leading development strategies that is imperative for emerging markets such as South Africa – is the empowerment of its women, with a number of studies showing that countries that have expanded opportunities for women and girls in education and work in recent decades have largely achieved greater prosperity and social development.
While pressing forward with strategic adjustments of economic structures and innovations of their sustainable growth models, South Africa is cognisant that equal participation in economic activities and equitable access to economic resources are the basic conditions for the well-being and development of women.
In South Africa, women constitute a large proportion of the economically challenged, particularly in rural areas, and the National Development Plan (NDP) acknowledges this by taking gender – along with race and geographic location – into account by proposing a range of measures to advance women’s equality. The NDP proposes that the transformation of the economy should involve the active participation and empowerment of women, and that the role of women as leaders in all sectors of society should be actively supported.
Worldwide, history and research has proven that women’s economic empowerment increases their access to economic resources and opportunities including jobs, financial services, property and other productive assets, skills development and market information.
For South Africa this outlook has translated itself in vast areas of development where women are taking the reins and actively contributing to their countries development agenda. South Africa’s economic empowerment mechanisms for promoting the status of women, fully utilizing government resources and effectively mobilizing social resources, lays an important foundation for promoting gender equality and women’ s development.
Over the past two decades, we have seen how the South African government has formulated and implemented laws, regulations and policy outlines to ensure that women enjoy equal political rights with men, which has resulted in a higher level of female participation in politics and a greater role played by women in decision making and management of state and social affairs.
The influence of women and women’s organisations in the development of South Africa politics keeps growing, with the South African government availing opportunities of support and encouragement for women to take part in the management of state and social affairs by expanding the scope and channels for such participation.
The 2015 South African Women in Leadership Census released in July last year draws on international benchmarks and cites South Africa as a top performer amongst BRICS countries with almost double the percentage of women Directors, within the BRICS grouping. The research also illustrated that the majority of medical school entrants are now women.
It is therefore evident, that our shared commitment to supporting, growing, empowering and recognising women leaders not only promotes fairness but it also improves our performance. Empowered, inspired and developed women are critical to improving any country’s global competitiveness, and this is equally the legacy that will be bequeathed to future generations.
Follow Ms Maponya on @ChichiMaponya