Pretoria - South Africa has made notable progress in its efforts to elevate the status of women since 1994, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
Addressing the national annual women’s day celebrations in Pretoria, Zuma said he was pleased with the progress made in the past 18 years, although the government still had a lot to do.
“While we still have a lot of work to do, we are satisfied with the progress made thus far in improving the status and quality of life of women, in only 18 years of freedom.
“Most of the achievements in reducing extreme levels of income poverty can be ascribed to government's comprehensive social protection programme,” he told thousands of people gathered at the Union Buildings.
Zuma said it would take years, if not decades, to completely eradicate poverty, inequality and unemployment, but South Africa would soldier on to achieve that goal.
“We are happy to have achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing the number of people living on less than one US dollar a day,” he said.
Zuma said the nationwide electrification programme had been a great success.
“In 1994, only 30 percent of South African households had access to electricity. To date, Eskom has connected over four million households to the national electricity grid,” he said to applause.
“In rural areas, electrification has increased from 12 percent in 1994 to almost 60 percent currently. In addition, close to 450,000 people were supplied with basic water between April and December 2011.”
South Africa was making significant progress in improving women's access to health care services.
There had been aggressive implementation of policies to increase access to antiretroviral medicines. The country's objective was to increase access to antiretroviral drugs to 2.5 million South Africans by 2014.
He appealed to communities to support families and women who were victims of domestic violence. People should report violence and abuse to the police.
“Domestic violence in particular should not be treated as a private matter. It is a crime and must be reported to the police,” he said.
“As a nation we must unite against all hooligans who attack and sexually assault women and girls.”
Zuma congratulated South Africa's Olympic team.
“Let me congratulate and welcome back home the South African Olympics swimming team... Together with the conquering rowing team, they have presented South Africa as a winning and shining nation on the world stage,” he said to massive applause.
August is Women's Month in South Africa. Women's Day is commemorated annually on August 9 in memory of the march held by women in 1956 to protest against apartheid pass laws, and a decision to apply them to women too.
In terms of this law, a pass restricted where black people were allowed to be, or travel to, in the country. Not carrying the pass, or not having it up to date, meant a fine or jail. - Sapa