10 August 2012
The Gender Equality Bill must be fast-tracked if South Africa is to further level the playing field for women, President Jacob Zuma said during the Women’s Day celebrations at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Thursday.
This year’s Women’s Day was celebrated under the theme “Women unite in fighting poverty, inequality and unemployment”.
“We have directed to Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities to fast-track the Gender Equality Bill, so that we can enforce gender parity measures across all sectors of society,” he said.
The Gender Equality Bill will be tabled before Cabinet during the 2012/13 financial year and will enforce compliance in government and the private sector.
Making gender equality a constitutional imperative
Zuma said that much had been done to uplift women in the country, with women’s representation in Parliament increasing from 27.8% in 1994 to 44% in 2009 and the representation of women in provincial legislatures rising from 25.4% to 42.4%.
“Gender equality is now a constitutional imperative in our country. This is further reinforced by various pieces of legal instruments, including the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act; the Employment Equity Act; the Domestic Violence Act; Maintenance Act; Sexual Offences Act and the Civil Union Act,” he said.
Zuma also said enhancing gender equality in the private and public sector should not be viewed simply as a compliance issue to pacify the Employment Equity Commission.
“It is a fundamental principle of democracy and human rights. Women’s rights are human rights.”
Fighting poverty, inequality and unemployment
Zuma also said government would continue to work on improving the lives of South Africans, particularly women.
“We know that it will take years, if not decades, to completely eradicate poverty, inequality and unemployment, but we will soldier on to achieve this goal of the founding mothers and fathers of our struggle for freedom,” he said.
Zuma saluted the 1956 group of women who led the anti-pass march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The 20 000-strong women’s march was led by Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophie Williams-De Bruyn and Albertina Sisulu, among others.
“We salute all women for their resilience against pass laws, severe repression, the internecine violence that engulfed our townships during the 80s and 90s, arrests, torture and all sorts of violations of human dignity.”
In recognition and honour of the women who led the women’s revolt in Lehurutse in 1957 – which later spread to other villages in Zeerust, such as Dinokana, Lekgopung, Motswedi and Gopane – these places will be declared heritage sites.
A Women’s Monument will also be erected at Lillian Ngoyi Square in Pretoria in memory of the 1956 women leaders who led the anti-pass march to the Union Buildings.