10 August 2011
While South Africa has made progress in improving the status of women since attaining democracy in 1994, much remains to be done on the economic front, President Jacob Zuma said on Women’s Day.
Addressing a Women’s Day rally at Peter Mokaba Sadium in Polokwane on Tuesday, Zuma said that while advances had been made in empowering women politically, the government wanted to see “visible” change for women in all walks of life.
“We are aware that women entrepreneurs remain on the periphery of the national economy,” Zuma said. “Their activities are concentrated in making and selling crafts, hawking as well as the personal and retail sectors.”
“We believe that women in rural areas, townships and villages must have the opportunity to open successful businesses or cooperatives to generate income.”
He said the low participation of women in business was due to, among others, poor access to business opportunities, information and knowledge on how to run successful businesses.
Research shows that women form the majority of South Africa’s unemployed, with most of these living in rural areas.
Public investment to benefit women
Zuma said the government had set aside R57-million through the Land Care programme for projects aimed at assisting women in rural areas.
Programmes were also in place to invest in the long-term development of women in scarce skills, especially in science and technology, with the enrolment of women in universities having increased from 48% in 1996 to 56% in 2008.
Women would also benefit from the implementation of the state’s R800-billion infrastructure development programme over the next few years.
“We will be rolling out large-scale projects such as energy, dams, roads, public transport and communication infrastructure nationwide,” Zuma said, adding that there were also opportunities for women in other sectors of the economy, including “green” industries.
Zuma said the government was concerned that the target of women’s participation in mining had still not been met, as indicated by the recent mining charter review. “This means more must be done to open this sector for women.”
Speaking before Zuma, Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale decried the “exclusion of women in the country’s mainstream economy.
“It is a fact that many women are still left behind in terms of economic emancipation,” Mathale said. “Working together, we can do more to change the condition of the women of our country.
“It should never be accepted that many women are still living under abject poverty conditions, with no access to basic services such as electricity and sanitation,” he said.