President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday said the empowerment of women was an integral part of goverment’s efforts to achieve inclusive growth, create jobs and expand economic opportunities for all.
Ramaphosa, speaking at the launch of the inaugural Women Economic Assembly (Wecona) in Modderfontein, east of Johannesburg, said the empowerment of women was a task that required dedicated and unrelenting attention from all sectors of society.
“It is therefore abundantly clear that the economic empowerment of women is not a technical exercise, achieved merely by improving policy and introducing progressive programmes.
“It is fundamentally a process of fundamental social transformation, in which every institution, every sector and every citizen must be involved,” Ramaphosa said in his opening remarks to the assembly.
The Wecona was a hybrid event attended by businesswomen, government leaders and officials, private companies, civil society organisations and other stakeholders.
The initiative seeks to facilitate the participation of women-owned businesses in core areas of the economy with the view to foster sustainable economic development.
High unemplyment rate among women
With nearly 37% of women unemployed in South Africa compared to 32% of men, Ramaphosa said the economic empowerment of women would reduce their vulnerability to abuse and violence.
He said when women were economically empowered, it led to them being less dependent on male partners and having a better chance of leaving an abusive relationship.
“These disparities are not only the product of a profoundly imbalanced economy; they also arise from – and contribute to – gender inequality in society.
“[About] 42% of children in South Africa live only with their mother, compared to 4% who live only with their father. The great divide in parental responsibility translates into a great divide in economic opportunity and circumstance,” Ramaphosa said.
The president said the assembly was, therefore, important to ensure the economic empowerment of women in South Africa.
“It is fundamentally a process of fundamental social transformation, in which every institution, every sector and every citizen must be involved.”
National Strategic Plan
Ramaphosa said a significant portion of the R21 billion that national government departments had allocated to implementing the National Strategic Plan over the next few years was dedicated to economic empowerment programmes.
The National Strategic Plan, launched in 2020, aims to create more economic opportunities for women as part of its pillars.
“The Presidency, working with departments such as the Department of Women, Social Development, Small Business, Rural Development and Land Reform, and the National Treasury, has mapped out a strategy to achieve 40% preferential procurement in the public sector.
“Current public procurement accounts for 9% of GDP, which is about R500 billion annually. Of this amount, 12% went to women-owned enterprises in the first and second quarters of 2021.”
The president added that government, working together with industry, had started building the capability of women-owned businesses to submit proposals to provide goods and services in the public and private sectors.
“I wish to encourage other industries and economic sectors to join this initiative and make their commitments and action plans for women’s empowerment,” he said.
Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe