Economic empowerment for South African women will be the focal point of Women’s Month 2011, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana said on unveiling this year’s programme.
“We will use Women’s Month to highlight the economic empowerment of women as a critical element of success for South Africa’s efforts to achieve its targets on economic growth,” Xingwana said in Pretoria on Sunday.
The programme emphasises the role of women as equal partners in the economic, social and cultural development of society, as well as ending the economic marginalisation of women in the country.
National Women’s Day
The highlight of the month is the observation of National Women’s Day on 9 August, which commemorates 9 August 1956, when 20 000 women marched on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the hated apartheid-era pass laws.
South Africa recently lost two veterans of the march. Albertina Sisulu and Bertha Gxowa were among the group of women who left bundles of petitions containing more than 100 000 signatures at then Prime Minister JG Strijdom’s office doors at the Union Buildings.
MaSisulu and Gxowa, together with other women, then stood silently for 30 minutes outside Strijdom’s office, before singing a specially composed protest song, Wathint’ Abafazi Wathint’ imbokodo! (You strike a woman, you strike a rock).
“We owe it to Mama Gxowa and Mama Sisulu and many other fallen heroines of the struggle for gender equality and freedom to make this Women’s Month programme a success,” Xingwana said.
This year’s National Women’s Day will be celebrated at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Limpopo, where President Jacob Zuma will be the main speaker.
Women’s Month 2011 kicked off in Boksburg east of Johannesburg on Sunday with the opening of a three-day National Women’s Conference of more than 800 women from across the country.
Xingwana said the gathering sought to discuss and resolve key policy considerations to be included in the Gender Equality Bill, which is being developed to increase women’s participation in all sectors of society.
Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is expected to respond to key issues raised by the conference when he delivers the closing address on Wednesday.
This will be followed by a Women’s Economic Empowerment Conference at the International Convention Centre in Durban on 11 and 12 August.
1 956 houses to commemorate 1956 march
On 18 August, Human Settlements Deputy Minister Zoliswa Kota-Fredericks will hand over 55 of 1 956 houses being built in commemoration of 1956 Women’s march in Branford, Free State.
It was in Branford that women’s movement veteran Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was placed under house arrest by the apartheid regime.
During the month, the Department of Public Works will also run a programme encouraging the adoption of indigenous building methods, which were traditionally led by women, in Limpopo province.
The Departments of Trade and Industry, Correctional Services and Social Development also have a line-up of activities to celebrate Women’s Month.