Kingsmead Cricket Stadium : August 9, 2002

Master of Ceremonies, Miss Vicky Masuku, Mayor of Ethekwini Unicity Mr Obed Mlaba, Chairperson of the Inkatha Women’s Brigade Mrs A Mchunu, Secretary General of the ANC Women’s League Bathabile Dlamini, Dr Thabisa Dumisa Commissioner on Gender Equality, Provincial Ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I wish to greet you all and welcome you once again. I would like to say that each and every one of you gathered here today is important and has a role and a contribution to make towards the better life for all the Women of this Province. We all have a responsibility to say “NO to violence against women and any other forms of abuse, NO to poverty and NO to HIV/AIDS”.

As we are gathered here, we all have a common goal: the promotion and protection of Women’s rights as well as their empowerment thereof. For us to realize our common goal, we need to make a significant paradigm shift. This is a challenge we are facing as citizens of this Province and of this Country. We are facing a challenge of “unlearning what we have learnt”. Gender Equality and Women Empowerment has been understood from a very narrow and limited point of view or traditional framework.

We are moving from the premise that says: “Women’s Rights are Human Rights”. Human Rights are premised on the equal worth and dignity of all humanity. Equality and the principle of non-discrimination require equality of opportunity and equitable access to public resources.

Women throughout the world suffer gross inequities, and are denied full enjoyment of their rights on a basis of equality with men. In order to prompt the necessary action to achieve women’s equal rights the UN adopted the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). There was recognition that discrimination and violence against women is a human right’s concern. For too long it had been argued that what took place behind closed doors, or within the family, was a private matter and of no concern to the state, thus falling outside human rights.

Government is obliged to ensure protection and enjoyment of Human Rights by Women. Respect for individual rights not only sustains the development of individuals but also encourages the initiative required for economic and social progress. Securing human rights helps protect people from impoverishment and enables them to develop in accordance with their equal rights and dignity.

Securing the realisation of Women’s Rights on a basis of equality with men is an essential pre-requisite for sustainable development. Human Rights are central to development. My view is that Human Rights approach to Development adds the vision of what development is striving to achieve. Human Rights should be integrated into development projects. These range from women’s rights projects to those designed to empower street children. As the HIV/AIDS pandemic has shown, respect for human rights saves lives. Women should be empowered by learning of their human rights. Those women living in poverty or social isolation should be encouraged to think of themselves as Victors rather than Victims e.g. women living with HIV/AIDS.

Women should participate in the identification of priorities and in the planning, implementation and evaluation of projects, as this will help women to have a sense of ownership in the process and outcome of development. By doing this, we will ensure that the impact of policies and projects are fully considered and that they are designed to put the interest of people firmly at the top of the agenda. Human Rights are central to development and to our objective of poverty elimination. To me poverty means the denial of choices and opportunities for a tolerable life, it is a statement of denial of the human rights and freedoms necessary to enjoy a quality of life commensurable with human dignity.

Poverty is itself a violation of human rights. In addition, it causes vulnerability to a denial of a wide range of other human rights. Inequalities and other violations exacerbate poverty. The relationship between human rights, poverty and development is thus circular. Breaking this circle by securing the enjoyment of human rights by women living in rural areas, poverty and social isolation is an effective tool in overcoming poverty and in promoting human development.

Mainstreaming gender into our dealings as Government and Civil Society will require a review of priorities, targets, methodology and evaluation as well as the manner in which partnerships are perceived and carried out. A serious commitment to Gender Equality and Women Empowerment requires it to be mainstreamed into all policies and programmes of this Government.

Gender is a multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary and cuts across all levels of the social discourse. The social discourse is about people who have feelings, beliefs, values and cultures and women are part of such a discourse. I therefore believe that they should effectively participate in order to change or reshape whatever that inhibits them from being actively involved within the social discourse. You should be part of the transformation of your lives and assume the part of “change agents” within the social discourse. Women need to articulate vigorously those issues that require government’s intervention.

We need to join our forces as both government and civil society and begin to face this scenario head on. I have in many instances advocated the idea of public-private partnership. The intervention by government in terms of legislation, policies, resources and other programmes symbolizes the completion of the partnership. We already have partnership between civil society (represented by different NGO’s) and spheres of government (represented by the OSW and KWANALOGA)

In this partnership, we are pleading for a multi-sectoral participation and all encompassing approaches in dealing with Gender Equality and Women Empowerment. It is, however, critical that the partnership does not preclude each partner from adhering to its roles, responsibility and executing its mandates on any matters. Each partner for it to exist should not give away its own characteristics or qualities.

As government we have constitutional and legislative mandates to serve the public as well as accounting in terms of how successful or unsuccessful have we performed our mandates. In terms of good governance, government should strive towards providing more quality services and to be responsive to the changing needs of the public.

In order to execute our mandates and realize our common goals, certain organizational functional structures have been put in place. The Office on the Status of Women is a Sub-Directorate within the Human Rights Directorate that was created to ensure that Gender issues are coordinated and implemented in this province. All of us as a collective need to reflect on both national and international initiatives with their huge challenges. This country will be hosting the World Summit on Sustainable Development in August-September 2002. My Office in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare and Population Development are taking 37 Women specifically from rural areas of this Province to attend the Summit (The Women Process).

Let us go out, each one of us and champion the good course of the women of this Province and this country at large. We need to vigorously impact on the decision-makers to make sure that Gender is being integrated into all the departments and programmes that are intended for the society at large. We need to think about those disabled women and children who are raped and abused, it’s a double tragedy for them in this very stereotyped society. We need to think about Women and Children who are HIV positive or orphans of HIV/AIDS. We need to have a province and a country that will be sensitive towards the rights of women.

My Office is committed to providing and coordinating a coherent framework both for the planning, implementation and evaluation of gender programmes and ensuring cross sectoral policy coherence in support of the rights and needs of women in this Province.

I thank you.