On The Theme
“Women United In Moving South Africa Forward”
Input By Ms Ll Van Der Merwe MP (IFP)
Honourable Speaker –
Today we pay tribute our great icons of 1956. We celebrate the fact that in here Parliament and boardrooms across our country, women’s voices are stronger than ever been before.
But in homes and communities, women still bear the brunt of poverty, of violence and abuse. Teenage pregnancies are common. The fact that women still earn less than men, also, means that we will not achieve equality in our lifetime.
A recent Ipsos study tells us that less than half the population believes government is handling gender-based violence adequately. But we don’t need surveys to tell us – it is patently clear. Gender equality may be a work in progress. But when it comes to gender-based violence, we are by far not working fast, or well, enough.
In part, it comes down to money and political will.
The annual budget of the Department of Women in Presidency is barely half what we spent on Nkandla. The Commission on Gender Equality is underfunded. Underfunding, undermines, all progress we have made, and forces us to scale back on women’s empowerment programmes, therefore .
At this stage, I would do things differently. The millions spent on Women’s Day festivities would be better spent supporting NGOs, and safe houses, that do the actual work of assisting vulnerable women.
Money spent on large delegations to international conferences would be better spent on practical programmes, like distributing sanitary towels to schoolgirls – who cannot afford it and therefore miss months of schooling.
We know that if you educate a woman, you educate a family. We cannot therefore continue to turn a blind eye to our inferior education system which continues to fail young women. They are left with limited opportunities, in a struggling economy that sees 50% of young South Africans unemployed. These obstacles to economic emancipation are widening the gap of gender inequality.
But finally we must ask ourselves: are women united in moving South Africa forward? That is hard to believe when the Department of Women recently suggested in a tweet, that victims of domestic violence, should be punished even further for withdrawing their cases.
It is equally hard to believe when women in this House treat each other with disdain and disrespect that has come to characterise our behaviour. It is even harder to believe when leaders attack the Public Protector for doing her work without fear or favour. Where is the unity and female solidarity then? Let us stop using language that demean women.
Clearly, we must move beyond the rhetoric and fanfare that has come to characterise Women’s Day. Let us do what is required by ensuring that we continue to build a South Africa where the rights of women are upheld, honoured and respected. But it starts by investing in women, which will empower the next generation.
I thank you.