Debate on International Woman's Day
Equal Access to Education, Training, Science and Technology
By Hon Connie Zikalala MP

National Assembly: 9 March 2011 

Honourable Speaker: 

2011 will see International Women’s Day celebrating its 100th year after it was first celebrated on the 19th March 1911 and the IFP joins with the International community and all other political parties in paying homage to the women of the world on this International Women’s day. In its first year it was celebrated and commemorated by only four European countries and today, 100 years later, it is celebrated annually by all Member states of the United Nations. 

The theme this year focuses on the fundamental aspects and rights of women being allowed to enjoy equal access as their male counterparts to education, as well as training within the fields of science and technology. 

One of the main hindrances within the sub-Saharan as well as the South African context to a woman achieving prominence in the above fields, is poverty. Young women are being sent out to work by their parents in order to secure additional income for the family. The result being that they are unable to complete secondary schooling and as a direct consequence thereof, tertiary training. Science and Technology are fields in which tertiary training is a pre-requisite and young women should be encouraged by all means necessary to progress to tertiary education. 

Gender inequality that hinders young women entering the fields of science and technology must be eliminated. These mindsets must be changed and brought into the 21st Century in order to create the necessary space for a young woman to pursue whatever career path she chooses.   

In Africa for instance, women produce approximately 80% of the food, yet only own 10% of the land. Why is this? Why is it more difficult for a woman in Africa to access credit, information or effective technology? Crime against women is out of control!  Domestic violence, rape and human trafficking – too many perpetrators of these crimes are never prosecuted and sentenced.   It is issues such as these that must be addressed if we wish to pay more than just lip service to uplifting one of our most precious resources.  

The eradication of poverty as well as the commitment of parents to their daughters’ education, inclusive of tertiary education, will go a long way in enabling the young women of this world to pursue lucrative careers within the fields of science and technology, which in turn will pay handsome dividends into the homes of those families whose daughters have been so educated.  

The new millennium has witnessed a significant change and attitudinal shift in both women's and society's thoughts about women's equality and emancipation. Great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so the tone and nature of International Women’s Day has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives, to a celebration of the positives. 

Honourable Speaker, whilst the IFP acknowledges that International Women’s day is celebrated on one day during March of each year, we as a party stress the need that the women of our country and the world should be honoured each and every day of the year, and that the values that are celebrated on International women’s day must be promoted ceaselessly each and every day, and that the women of the world should be treasured and cherished for the women WE ARE!

I thank you.