Gwen Kunene (63), from Izwelonke Women’s Forum in Benoni, was one of the participants in the session. She believes that it is only through education that societies can be transformed to produce a capable generation of young people, especially women, with the requisite skills geared towards the needs of the economy.
This, she said, will be paramount, especially now that the new government has put economic transformation at centre stage to help address the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
“We still live in an unequal society, regardless of which sector one is in. I am of the firm belief that education can help us bridge the gap and help equalise us as women and move the country forward,” Kunene said.
Her views were shared by Sheila Eland, who said even though women’s participation in the economic has improved since 1994, youth still faced challenges.
“Government needs to pay special focus on… the country’s youth. Our youth are roaming the streets with qualifications and no work because employers are reluctant to hire people with no experience. This needs to change,” she said.
She said more resources should be put towards programme that give youth access to training, work experience, jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Another participant, Agnes Mboxa, pointed out that great strides have been made in improving the status of women under the democratic government.
Referring to the number of jobs employers previously earmarked for men, Mboxa acknowledged that South Africa has made visible progress in promoting gender equality and empowering women through progressive policies.
Although the country is on the right track, Mboxa said a lot still needs to be done.
“We are not out of the woods yet. Even after 20 years of democracy, the girl child still remains the most abused in society.
“I feel like we are treating the symptoms and not the real problem. For us to move forward, we need men to be involved. They must be part of these conversations and part of the solution.”
Participants recommended that government must step up affirmative action by making companies commit to the cause.
The meeting was held under the theme ‘20 Years of Democracy: Moving Women’s Agenda forward through Radical Socio-Economic Transformation’.
It was an opportunity to obtain inputs from women’s organisations, women in different sectors and interfaith organisations on priorities for Gauteng’s gender policy and programme as part of Women’s Month celebrations.
The month of August is Women’s Month, as government declared 9 August a public holiday in commemoration of the 1956 Women’s March.
This year’s Women’s Month is significant in that South Africa marks 60 years since the signing of the Women’s Charter on 17 April 1954 in Johannesburg. Furthermore, it is 20 years since the adoption of the 1994 Women’s Charter for Effective Equality. The country also celebrates 20 Years of Freedom.
Social Development MEC Nandi Mayathula-Khoza said the engagement was part of government’s programme to take women development in the province forward.
“This is an opportunity to build social capital and partnerships in taking forward gender equality,” she said.
In his address, Premier Makhura said the Gauteng government has put in place the 10-Pillar Programme of Action to radically transform, modernise and re-industrialise the province, in line with the National Development Plan.
This 10–pillar programme, according to the Premier, will get citizens to participate in transforming society.
Among other things, the plan talks to the renewal of townships and revitalisation of the township economic as part of turning townships into thriving centres of educational, cultural, intellectual and social and economic excellence.
“We want women to take centre stage in all the ten pillars of our transformation because when you empower women, you empower the whole nation.”
Premier Makhura said government has made strides in employing and empowering women.
“However, we are far from where we want to be. Yinde lendlela (the road is long), especially with regards to involvement of women in the economy,” he said.
According to Premier Makhura, the provincial government will introduce programmes to attract and empower women to the economy. He also urged women to be active citizens.
“Don’t wait for government. We want you to organise yourselves in cooperatives and enterprises… government will provide you will the skills.”
The Premier said the issues raised in the dialogue will form part of the programme of action for the province.