Ms LL Van Der Merwe MP
Old Assembly Chamber
Honourable House Chairperson, the Minister of Women in the Presidency, Members of Parliament
This is a debate that transcends party politics. For I am first and foremost a South African woman. My Constituency is the women of our country, regardless of my political affiliation, the language I speak, or where I come from.
Our stories are the same, our challenges are the same, whether we are single mothers, women living in deep rural areas, or pregnant teenagers.
With me, my mother too was a pregnant teenager. Although not by choice. My late mother did not finish matric, and so a life of low-paid jobs awaited her. Her story, her challenges, became mine, as I had to give up my dream of wanting to study further, in order to care for an ailing mother.
So while I am not a victim of gender-based violence, I do bear the scars of it.
Therefore, while many may disregard the importance of this Department, gender issues are deeply personal to me. And so it should be to every South African.
While gains have been made to entrench women’s rights since 1994, many failures still loom large.
Allow me to highlight a few concerns –
Firstly, the State fails to provide adequate funding from the national Budget to fund women’s issues and fight gender-based violence. This despite the fact that, last year, KPMG estimated that violence against women costs the country a minimum of R28.4 billion per year.
These questions must be asked:
How is it possible that, after two decades of being guided by a Constitution that entrenches women’s empowerment and gender equality, we still have a gender-blind Budget?
And following on from that, I must ask: is there real political will to end gender-based violence? Considering that the National Council Against Gender Based Violence, established by President Zuma following the brutal death of Anene Booysen, failed because it never received a cent!
Moreover, we still do not have a clear national plan to address gender-based violence. Nor do we know if any of the tools we are currently using are yielding any results.
This is the status quo, despite the fact that we made an international commitment to halve our cases of gender-based violence by 2015. That is this year!. Clearly we need to prioritise the development and implementation of a properly researched and resourced national plan to fight gender based violence.
Apart from the lack of funding, I also decry the manner in which our resources are spent at times.
Minister, you must be congratulated for ensuring that opposition parties were included in the delegation that went to the UN Commission on Status for Women. But, clearly, considering our financial challenges, we must keep our delegations small. We also need to spend less time on workshops, conferences, events, seminars and lunches. We need every cent to be spent in a manner that will effect real change.
Hon Chair, in conclusion, the issues I have highlighted are more than just policy or planning failures. They are failures that rob families of their children, mothers, wives and grandmothers.
The IFP pledges its support for this Budget. However, the reality is that the budget we are debating today is simply not enough. If we do not start addressing the lack of adequate funding for the empowerment of our women, debates like these will remain empty rhetoric.
Let me leave you with the words of Kofi Annan, “Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance. ”
I thank you.