HON MRS TP MTHETHWA MPL
The celebration of International Women’s Day presents us with an opportunity to reflect on the status of women in the world and in our country today.
I take great pride in the fact that the IFP has fought for women’s rights for many years, working tirelessly to ensure that women take up their role within our liberation struggle and within our democratic transformation, and in the building of our future.
The IFP’s President, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, was the first to promote the liberation of women when he recognised their role within the leadership of Inkatha. As the ruling party of the erstwhile KwaZulu government, we took unprecedented legislative initiatives to amend the Natal Code of Native Law to enable women to own property like their male counterparts, thereby eliminating forever the legal presumption that adult married women were minors throughout their lives.
We went even further by opening the institution of traditional leadership to women and we allowed for the first female traditional leader to be installed.
Education is crucial if we want to ensure that women and girls are engaged and active in political and public life. In this country, girls tend to perform well at school. In fact, they regularly outperform their male counterparts.
Education is important but we know it is not enough in itself to ensure gender equality in the workplace. For women to have equal opportunities to men at work, employers need to take action, and we all need to challenge harmful social norms that can hold women back. We want the KZN and SA to lead the way for gender equality in the workplace.
Making progress on what has so far been achieved for women is something we should all be looking to accelerate in all walks of life. Be it women in politics, in the workplace or at home, or young girls at school, or young women in further education, we need to press for more and faster progress.
Women and girls with disabilities suffer particularly high rates of gender-based violence, sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation.
So, although we recognise what has been achieved for women, there is indeed still much to do, which is why this debate is important. There are still far too many challenges facing women in South Africa and it is unacceptable that the ANC-led government gives only superficial recognition to these. As the IFP, we express our discontent with the lack of genuine commitment from national government as a whole to better the lives of all women across the country.
Abathuthukiswe abezifazane ukuthi bakwazi nabo ukuzimela. Abanconywe ngamagalelo abo abesifazane abaneqhaza elikhulu abalibambile emiphakathi yethu.
I am of the opinion that there is a strong correlation between political will, public awareness, expectation of service delivery, equality and what constitutes ethical behaviour. Political support and will about service delivery, equality and ethical behaviour are critical. The political will to make service delivery, equality and ethical behaviour central to the oversight, governance and administration responsibilities involve the will to question current behaviours, public and private practices, structures and processes that perpetuate inequality.
We are concerned about women violence. Addressing those responsible and holding them to account on an ongoing basis on the issue of violent sexual and gender-specific crime should be one of the primary concerns of this House. There are probably as many theories about why the country is in the grip of an extraordinarily violent expression of male sexual power as there are incidents of rape in a day.
The more dainty, delicate and soft-palmed a woman is, the more feminine she is considered to be.
The extent to which a woman cannot speak loudly and make demands determines her level of finesse and femininity. Violence is as much a health issue as it is a criminal justice and social development issue. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will surely flourish. Poverty, however, brings social marginalisation, and violence, fuelled by alcohol and drugs, is widely accepted as a means of resolving interpersonal conflict, and then physical abuse of women and children is often tolerated.
We should be careful that in an effort towards greater gender equality, we do not have the opposite effect. We should guard against the possibility that politics may stand in the way of the effective safeguarding of our women and girl children in the country.
As much as we want to acknowledge that our nation has made enormous progress in dismantling discriminatory legislation, policies and practices that undermine and attack the dignity and rights of women, we also are concerned that we have not moved decisively in expanding opportunities and programmes that are geared towards the final dismantling of all these discriminatory laws. We want to see a more resolute political will and firm commitment to equal rights and opportunities of women.
We are also aware that the battle for gender equality has shifted towards putting together all our efforts to ensure that women genuinely experience a better quality of life and equality in all aspects of their lives.
As South Africans, both men and women, it is our responsibility to keep our women and children safe.
I would like to talk about women’s attitudes towards other women. It is improving, but it has been quite bad. Women have not been willing to support other women. We have to learn to support each other all the time in everything. I hope this will happen in due course because younger women are much more aware of it.
In addition, how do we change the attitude of mothers towards their sons and daughters? We have done a lot of work in this country and attitudes have changed, but there is a whole, vast world still where the son is the prince—not the daughter.
We believe that rural agriculture must be resuscitated. The IFP believes that special attention must be paid to teaching women the basics of subsistence farming, which will enable them to create sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families. With initiatives such as these, we can improve the lives of millions of women and girls.
Therefore, we must celebrate International Women’s Day, where women on all continents, often divided by national boundaries and by ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political differences, come together to celebrate their day free of inequality, injustice, but fulfilled with peace and development.
I thank you.