South Africa’s top women gather

The first Annual Top Women Conference is under way at Emperor’s Palace in Ekurhuleni, east of Johannesburg. The two-day conference, taking place today and tomorrow, brings together some of the most powerful and well-known women from various industries.

Among the speakers are the executive director of UN Women and the former deputy president of South Africa, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka; Thuli Madonsela, the public protector of South Africa; and Susan Shabangu, the minister of women in the presidency.

The conference is hosted by Topco Media and it recognises outstanding leadership, inspiration, vision, and innovation in South African organisations.

“It will not be another talk shop, motivational workshop, or death-by-PowerPoint presentation event,” reads the Top Women website. “The conference aims to bring together decision makers and thought leaders who are serious about delivering results.”

Karla Fletcher, director of Topco, spoke about the debate on 50/50 gender parity by 2030. “What we have noted is that whether it is debated or not, the point is it is not going away and you can choose to positively affect and gain from this process, or alternatively be left behind. We need people who are going to push the gender agenda,” she said.

The speakers

Mlambo-Ngcuka was sworn into the UN in 2013. She has been devoted to human rights, equality and social justice throughout her career.

“Not only has she worked in government, civil society and within the private sector, she is also driving the gender equality agenda, an area where progress is being made, but too slowly,” said Fletcher.

Before taking up her position at the UN, Mlambo-Ngcuka served as the deputy president of South Africa, minister of minerals and energy, and deputy minister in the department of trade and industry.

She started off as a teacher and has her PhD in education and technology from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom.

Madonsela has been the public protector since October 2009 following a unanimous vote in parliament. She is the first woman to hold the position. Her term ends in October 2016.

“Since Advocate Madonsela took office, the public protector as a constitutional institution has tackled tough questions and has received unprecedented national and international recognition,” reads her profile on the website of the Office of the Public Protector, “which has included her being recognised by Time magazine as one of the world’s most influential people in 2014.”

The main job of her office is to investigate abuses of power and maladministration of state affairs, mediate administrative disputes, and advise on possible solutions through recommendations and reports.

Shabangu has been the minister of women since 2014. She has a long history in the liberation struggle, and was a member of the group of women who revived the Federation of South African Women during the late 1970s.

“She was also a member of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) National Women’s Sub-Committee, working with women’s issues and representing the TGWU at national level,” reads her profile on the ministry website.

Shabangu was previously the deputy minister of minerals and energy and the deputy minister of safety and security.

Other speakers at the conference include businesswomen such as Jenna Clifford, Wendy Appelbaum and Khanyisile Kweyama.

See the Top Women Conference website for more information. reporter

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