President Jacob Zuma says the Gender Equality Bill must be fast tracked if the country is to further level the playing field for women.
"...We have directed to Ministry for Women, Children and People with Disabilities to fast track the Gender Equality Bill, so that we can enforce gender parity measures across all sectors of society," he said, noting with concern that some companies had no women representation in director and executive manager positions.
Similarly, the President said representation of women at the senior and top management levels of the public service also remained inadequate.
The Gender Equality Bill will be tabled before Cabinet during the 2012/13 financial year and will enforce compliance in government and the private sector.
Zuma was addressing thousands of women who gathered at the Union Buildings to celebrate Women's Day.
He, however, noted that much had been done to uplift women in the country, citing the fact that women's representation had increased in Parliament from 27.8% in 1994 to 44% in 2009, whilst the representation of women in provincial legislatures had increased from 25.4% to 42.4% respectively.
He saluted the 1956 group of women who led the anti-pass march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The 20 000-strong women's march was led by, among others, Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophie Williams-De Bruyn and Albertina Sisulu.
"We salute all women for their resilience against pass laws, severe repression, the internecine violence that engulfed our townships during the 80s and 90s, arrests, torture and all sorts of violations of human dignity.
"Gender equality is now a constitutional imperative in our country. This is further reinforced by various pieces of legal instruments, including the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act; the Employment Equity Act; the Domestic Violence Act; Maintenance Act; Sexual Offences Act and the Civil Union Act," he said.
Zuma said enhancing gender equality in the private and public sector should not be viewed simply as a compliance issue to pacify the Employment Equity Commission.
'Women's right are human rights'
"It is a fundamental principle of democracy and human rights. Women's rights are human rights," he said.
With regard to improving the living conditions of millions of South Africans, especially women, Zuma said government would soldier on to achieve this goal.
"We know that it will take years if not decades to completely eradicate poverty, inequality and unemployment, but we will soldier on to achieve this goal of the founding mothers and fathers of our struggle for freedom," he said.
This year's Women's Day is being celebrated under the theme: Women unite in fighting poverty, inequality and unemployment.
In recognition and honour of the women who led the women's revolt in Lehurutse in 1957, which later spread to other villages in Zeerust, such as Dinokana, Lekgopung, Motswedi and Gopane, President Zuma announced that those places would be declared heritage sites.
In Tshwane, the Women's Monument will be erected at Lillian Ngoyi Square in memory of the 1956 women leaders who led the anti-pass march to the Union Buildings.
Thousands of women from various provinces descended on the City of Tshwane to celebrate Women's Day. In attendance at the celebrations were Cabinet ministers, MECs and other senior government officials.