South Africa needs to strengthen interventions on women’s empowerment, according to President Thabo Mbeki.
Giving the keynote address at the opening of the Women’s Parliament in Cape Town on Tuesday, the president said that, especially in Africa, women have inadequate access to the resources they need to become economically productive and independent.
“Yet, as we know, women are very industrious and dynamic in the face of serious odds,” he said. “We see this in instances where women defy serious challenges, even in difficult circumstances, such as in the informal economy, working as hawkers, in part-time jobs, in agriculture and in domestic service, determined to provide for their families.”
He said that both in rural and urban areas, women have increasingly become the backbone of the family unit as well as the community.
“Clearly, because poverty among these women threatens to negate whatever advance we, as South Africans, have made since the onset of democracy in 1994, we need to strengthen our interventions on women’s empowerment,” he said.
He told the Women’s Parliament members that South Africa and Africa are faced with enormous challenges of poverty and underdevelopment, born of centuries of colonialism and imperialism, “as well as mistakes we ourselves have made during the years of our independence”.
The president said: “A stark example of the latter is that as we grappled with the development challenges in the post-colonial years, most of us thought, wrongly, that the African man, the liberator, will on his own, on his terms and at his own pace, without the involvement of women, also liberate the rest of society from hunger and underdevelopment.
“Accordingly, for many years, the critical matter of gender equality remained on the sidelines. Clearly, together with neo-colonialism, Cold War rivalries, civil wars and mismanagement of economies, the marginalisation of women contributed to the further underdevelopment of Africa.” — I-Net Bridge