17 August 2012

South Africa: Minister Calls for Economic Development Agency for Women

Pretoria — More needs to be done to empower women in the informal sector and it is necessary to establish an economic development agency for women, says Trade and Industry (dti) Deputy Minister Elizabeth Thabethe.

"More needs to be done to improve the conditions of the women in the informal sector to ensure that ultimately they grow their enterprises and gradually graduate to the formal sector," Thabethe said at the start of a two-day Women Economic Empowerment Conference in KwaZulu-Natal.

She said that businesswomen who were operating in the informal sector were still having challenges in accessing resources and funding in the running of their businesses.

"More importantly, we need an economic development agency for women. A fully fledged structure for servicing the economic needs of women," she said on Thursday.

Women were still facing challenges even though South Africa has proven itself to be a pioneer in the emancipation of women on the global scale. South Africa, 18 years into the dawn of democracy, has made strides in ensuring that women access economic opportunities and that the structural legacy of past policies is eradicated.

"Women today own enterprises and are active participants in the economy. We have more women playing leadership roles across various sectors and making inroads in various fields of the economy."

Women, however, still struggle with entry to sectors and opportunities that were previously targeted at men while economic conditions remained harsh for women.

"We still have many women operating in the informal sector where they struggle to access resources such as finance, infrastructure and ease of running businesses," she told delegates.

The conference is aimed at taking stock of the strides made in ensuring the meaningful participation of women in the economy of KwaZulu-Natal and the country as a whole and to encourage women to participate in sectors that are mainly male-dominated. It is also aimed at creating a platform where women can exchange information with industry leaders, as well as deal with challenges faced by women in economic participation.

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