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SEVERAL programmes to uplift women out of disadvantaged situations, to protect them against discrimination and abuse and to promote their skills and ensure they are given equal opportunities with men are on the cards during Women’s Month.
Yesterday, Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities Lulu Xingwana outlined her department’s plans to deal with women’s economic issues as the country prepared to commemorate the 56th anniversary of the women’s anti-pass march to the Union Buildings.
Of the celebrations themed “56 years of women united against poverty, inequality and unemployment” the minister said: “This theme is a reminder that the women of South Africa bear the uneven brunt of these triple challenges.
“It is also a clarion call for all of us to do more than what we have been doing to ensure that the vision of a better life for all becomes a living reality for all women.”
Xingwana condemned the rising violence against women, saying it undermined the gains of freedom and affected women’s ability to become productive citizens.
“There is also another disturbing trend of hate crimes in our society,” she said.
She called on the country – which she said was committed to human rights and democracy – to declare an assault on gays and lesbians as an assault on democracy.
“That people discriminate against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex communities requires a fight from all fronts,” Xingwana said.
The government would launch a National Council Against Gender-Based Violence on August 25, she announced.
The council would be chaired by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
“The council will facilitate help to victims and survivors of gender-based violence.
“It will adopt comprehensive measures to address all forms of violence against women and children as well as women with disabilities,” she said.
The council, whose secretariat would be located within her department, would also co-ordinate the 365 Days of National Action Plans to End Gender-based Violence.
The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, Xingwana said, would also be tabled before the cabinet during this financial year, and would help enforce compliance in the public and private sector.
“South Africa has made commitments to respect, protect and advance the rights of women. We have a duty and obligation to honour these commitments,” she said.
The New Growth Path and the Green Fund were gender and disability responsive, she said.
“Working with government departments and other partners, we are facilitating opportunities for women in rural, peri-urban and informal settlements to participate in green economy projects.
“These include solar energy, water purification, agriculture, construction, waste management and tourism projects.”
Her department would also monitor the extent to which women and people with disabilities benefited through the government’s preferential procurement system.
“The department will continue to encourage companies and organisations of women to register on government entities’ and departments’ supply chain databases.
Xingwana tabled a programme of action for this year calling on various departments to act decisively on the emancipation of women.
A night vigil will be held at the Tshwane City Hall on the eve of Women’s Day.
Women will participate in an interdenominational prayer and worship service to honour the heroines and women veterans who took part in the 1956 march.
On Thursday morning the women will witness a sod-turning ceremony for the Women’s Memorial Site in Lillian Ngoyi Square.
From there leaders, dignitaries and women will march to the Union Buildings to join the formal programme.