Despite progress made in improving the lives of South African women, a long road is still to be travelled to free women from discrimination, violence and poverty, says President Cyril Ramaphosa.
"There has been real progress in improving the lives of South African women in the economy, in the political sphere and in public life," said the President in his weekly newsletter on Monday.
In the newsletter, President Ramaphosa highlighted that the status and position of women in South Africa today is vastly different to that faced by mothers and grandmothers in 1956.
He said the country had come a long way in realising a South Africa that is non-racial, non-sexist, democratic, prosperous and free.
"At the same time, we know there is so much further we still have to go. Women still face discrimination, harassment and violence, and bear the greatest brunt of poverty. If we are to truly realise the promise of our Constitution we have to tackle the economic and financial exclusion that makes women more vulnerable to abuse and violence," he said.
The President's comments came after South Africa commemorated the 64th anniversary of Women's Day on Sunday.
President Ramaphosa also said that South Africa has joined a ground-breaking campaign of global efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030.
"We have joined a ground-breaking campaign that links us to global efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030. Generation Equality is an ambitious and transformative agenda to end discrimination and violence against women and for their equal participation in political, social and economic life."
As part of this campaign, South Africa has joined two 'Action Coalitions', one for economic justice and rights and another against gender-based violence (GBV).
"Both of these themes are critical to our own national agenda," he said.
Eleven months since the Emergency Response Action Plan to combat GBV and femicide was implemented, government has made progress in expanding support and care to survivors, and progress is being made in legal reforms to afford them greater protection.
"This month we begin the implementation of the National Strategic Plan to combat gender-based violence and femicide," he said.
A key aspect of the plan is on ensuring greater women's financial inclusion. This is because economic inequality and social inequality are interconnected.
"The economic status of women in South Africa makes them more vulnerable to abuse. We must therefore scale up support for women to enable them to become financially independent," said the President.
In addition, a number of commitments have also been made.
"We have made a number of commitments under Generation Equality that will be given effect to through the National Strategic Plan. Firstly, we are going to drive women's economic inclusion through public procurement. We have set the target of ensuring that at least 40% of goods and services procured by public entities are sourced from women-owned businesses," said the President.
Government will also scale up support for women-owned SMMEs and for women who work in the informal sector or are unemployed. This will include engagement with the financial sector to make financial services accessible and affordable for women.
"Thirdly, we want to ensure more women have access to productive assets such as land. It is essential that women are beneficiaries of the accelerate land reform programme. It is significant that of the R75 million in COVID-19 relief earmarked for farming input vouchers [that] 53% of the beneficiaries will be rural women. We must ensure that women subsistence and small-scale farmers continue to receive support beyond the pandemic."
Government will also seek to ensure that women are protected from GBV in the workplace.
"In this regard, we will be working at a national and regional level towards the ratification of the International Labour Organisazion Convention on Violence and Harassment in the Workplace," he said.
The emancipation of women is only words on paper unless it is matched by commitment from all sectors of society," he wrote.
Employment opportunities for women
"As we prepare for the reconstruction of our economy in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have said that we cannot simply return to where we were before the outbreak of the virus. We must build a fundamentally different economy which, among other things, substantially improves the material position of women," he added.
South Africa's investment in infrastructure must support not only the development of local industry, but also women-owned businesses.
"It must deliberately create employment opportunities for women in all stages of planning, financing, building and maintaining infrastructure. By the same measures, as we scale up our public employment programmes, we must ensure that young women in particular, are identified as participants."
"In addition to an income, these programmes will provide them with an opportunity to acquire some of the skills and experience necessary to enter the mainstream economy," he said.
The President said while it is government's responsibility to provide economic opportunities for women and create an enabling framework for advancing gender equality, businesses must support women-owned enterprises in the procurement of goods and services.
He emphasised that women needed to be protected from harassment and discrimination.
"It is up to transport operators, university administrators, school governing bodies and religious organisations to create conditions for women and girls to travel, study and worship in safety.
We must forge ahead with our efforts to eradicate chauvinism, sexism and patriarchy. It is these attitudes that enable the oppression of women," said President Ramaphosa.