29 August 2012
President of Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa, Ms Maphisa,
Leadership of women’s associations, including representatives of the African Businesswomen’s Network from various African countries,
All finalists and winners of the 2012 Businesswoman of the Year Awards,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good evening to you all.
Thank you for providing us an opportunity to conclude women’s month on a high note, by celebrating the achievements of women in the South African economy.
I am truly honoured to share this occasion with you.
The 2012 Annual Businesswoman of the Year Awards ceremony takes place as we celebrate a number of achievements on the political front.
We are marking 100 years of selfless struggle by many distinguished men and women in our country, including thousands of ordinary people in the townships and villages of our country, and our friends in Africa and abroad.
The year 2012 also marks the third year of the African Women’s Decade as declared by the African Union.
In this context, we are pleased with the progress made in the continent on advancing women leadership at high levels.
We take special pride in the election of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the first female Chairperson of the African Union Commission. Her election is not only a victory for South Africa. It is a victory for all Africans, and especially the African Union, which has in essence implemented its own decision to declare this a decade of women.
At a regional level, we welcome the appointment of Her Excellency Joyce Banda, as the President of Malawi and as the second woman Head of State in Africa.
We are pleased today to be adding the achievements of women in the economic sphere to our country’s 2012 achievements list.
The Business Women’s Association has been very consistent in highlighting women’s achievements in business and in promoting women’s advancement. Since 1980, you have produced a distinguished list of winners who have challenged stereotypes and proved women’s capabilities as leaders in the private sector.
We can count Ms Marina Maponya, and other leading women enterpreneurs including Ms Dawn Mokgobo, Ms Pam Golding, Dr Anna Mokgokong, Ms Chichi Maponya, and Ms Santie Botha.
We also recognize last year’s winners Ms Philisiwe Buthelezi, the 2011 corporate category winner and Dr Nondumiso Mzizana the 2011 entrepreneur category winner.
There are many other exceptional women who have been honoured over the years. The significance of the awards is that they promote positive images of women as achievers in general, but more especially in the male-dominated the business sector.
Our youth, both male and female, need to be provided with role models to look up to, so that we can succeed in creating a winning nation of achievers in all fields.
While celebrating this evening, we also know that the advancement of women in the country, especially in the economic sphere, still needs a lot of attention given the backlogs.
The 2012 Women in Leadership census report of the Business Women’s Association paints a disturbing picture of female representation in the private sector, but there are some slight improvements from the 2011 figures in some categories.
The survey indicates that women hold only 3.6% of CEO or managing director positions, 5.5% of board chair positions, 17.1 of directorships and 21.4 of executive managers positions.
The directorships had dropped to 15.8 percent in 2011, so the increase to 17.1 percent this year is most welcome.
However, of concern is the increase in the number of companies with no women at all in their boards of directors and executive manager positions. The number grew from 8.0% in 2011 to 10.6% this year.
The situation in the public service is not better. With regard to the public sector, the 2012 Business Women’s Association census data reveals that women constitute 58.9% of the total workforce in government. However, as the 2011 Employment Equity report indicates, women account for only 0.8 percent at top management and Senior Management level.
To address the slow pace of gender transformation, Government’s programme of action includes the promotion of gender equality and the advancement of women in all sectors.
We have introduced the Gender Equality Bill. It will provide the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities with the necessary authority to monitor, review and promote gender equality in all programmes of government and other sectors.
This new law will encourage all of us to comply with this imperative in the Constitution.
In addition, as government we are trying our best to provide support mechanisms for women in the economy.
We continue to support women-owned enterprises to overcome barriers such as lack of access to finance and technology.
Programmes such as Isivande Women’s Fund, Bavumile Skills Development Initiative and Technology for Women in Business are tailor made to address to common challenges that women-owned enterprises encounter.
These programmes complement the objectives set out in the National Growth Path. The empowerment of women and women-owned enterprises as laid out in the National Growth Path is integral to that success.
We will also continue to encourage the development and growth of more women owned enterprises that will take on the opportunities brought about by the localization initiatives of our Industrial Policy Action Plan.
The plan advocates the participation of women-owned enterprises in key industrial sectors. These include chemicals, advanced manufacturing, green energy, agro-processing, metals, and automotive sectors.
At a more long-term level, the economic empowerment of women is included in the National Development Plan released on the 15th of August in parliament by the National Planning Commission.
The Plan proposes that the transformation of the economy should involve the active participation and empowerment of women.
In addition, the Plan proposes that public employment programmes such as the Community Works Programme should be expanded, with a specific focus on youth and women.
Government remains awake to the need for transformation in other spheres as well, including those in which patriarchy is regarded as still being entrenched. For example, we have noted comments and concerns about the Traditional Courts Bill by many stakeholders, including women’s groupings. The aim of the Bill is to provide for the structure and functioning of traditional courts, in line with constitutional imperatives and values.
This law will affect 18 million citizens who reside within the ambit of the traditional justice system, who depend on this system to resolve disputes. It is therefore an important piece of legislation.
The Bill was first introduced in the National Assembly in 2008, was later withdrawn, and has been re-introduced. Public hearings have been held around the country during which a number of concerns were raised.
Firstly, the argument raised is that the Bill is unconstitutional in that it prohibits legal representation in traditional courts.
Secondly, concerns were raised that it does not contain provisions to ensure that women form part of the courts, nor does it go far enough to ensure that women can participate actively in the deliberations of the courts.
Thirdly, the Bill is said to entrench the balkanisation of traditional communities in accordance with the boundaries of the old tribal authorities of the defunct Bantustans.
Fourthly, we have been informed of concerns that it restricts access to justice by denying the right of persons to “opt out” of the traditional justice system and pursue redress of their matters in courts of law.
For example, women raised concerns that this Bill will deprive them of their democratic rights to choose to go to Magistrates Courts for recourse in the event of domestic or other disputes.
We have found the comments of the public as well as non-governmental and women’s organisations very informative and useful.
The Ministries and Departments affected by the Bill will discuss these concerns and also engage on policy options and possible amendments to the Bill, which is now before the NCOP.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Before concluding, let me take this opportunity, to thank you and all South Africans for observing with dignity and respect, the week of mourning for the 44 people who died in Marikana and other South Africans who died violently.
Our people, especially the bereaved families responded with dignity, calm and fortitude under immense pain and difficulty. We will now allow the Judicial Commission of Inquiry to establish the facts about what exactly transpired in Marikana.
This tragedy has caused enormous pain to all of us. It must unite us behind the resolve to promote peaceful resolution of disputes as provided for in the constitution and the laws of the land.
As said earlier, while touching on some policy issues, we bear in mind that today is primarily an evening of celebration!
I would like to once again applaud the Business Women’s Association for continuing to champion women’s excellence and meaningful participation in the economy.
We congratulate all the distinguished winners today. We are all proud of your achievers.
I wish you all success in all your future endeavours.
I thank you.