Former executive director for UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka addresses young and old women in Saxonwold on Thursday. Picture: Tim Bernard African News Agency (ANA)
Former executive director for UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka addresses young and old women in Saxonwold on Thursday. Picture: Tim Bernard African News Agency (ANA)

Mlambo-Ngcuka calls for SA to prioritise women in Covid-19 recovery efforts

By Noni Mokati Time of article published Oct 21, 2021

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JOHANNESBURG - FORMER executive director for UN Women Phumzile Mlambo- Ngcuka says women have been the most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and that the recovery from the pandemic should be squarely focused on them.

“Women do not have skills that enable them to stay at their desks and continue working, this is why it has been easy to dispose of them. Therefore, the pandemic is also about the recovery of women. We have to make sure the beneficiaries (of these recovery mechanisms) are women,“ Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

She was addressing young and old women within various structures in the ANC Women's League gathered at the Ruth First House in Saxonwold as part of a conversation around the role of women in society and the importance of promoting generational equality.

The event was also aimed at celebrating the life and times of struggle stalwart and women’s rights activist Albertina Sisulu and commemorating another struggle icon Charlotte Maxeke.

Mlambo-Ngcuka made her first public ANC appearance after her term came to an end this year.

The emancipation development of young girl children as well as the social and economic emancipation of women across all sectors was what underpinned her work at the UN.

On Thursday, Ngcuka said Maxeke lived at a time when patriarchy was raw and aggressive.

“She stood up to it and made sure she occupied her space, that she was heard and that the voice of women was part of the deliberations of the time. She was a scholar and an academic, artist, scientist. In all those she excelled. She did not die. She multiplied. Our responsibility is to live her life and make our contribution.”

On Sisulu, Mlambo-Ngcuka maintained she was a woman of substance and a leader in her own right.

“She led from the front. She was a leader whose husband was incarcerated. Her children too, but she did not look back. She continued to fight forward. She occupied space. She showed us what we need to do.”

Mlambo-Ngcuka warned the women’s group that South Africa could not longer afford to hold debates about the Fourth Industrial Revolution but should do something about it, adding that women had to assert themselves in influencing policies around climate change.

Detailing the life and times of Sisulu, her granddaughter Nontsikelelo Sisulu said her grandmother and so many other struggle icons had paved the way for today's generation.

“(We need to ask ourselves) what is our mission today as a people, as a country and women and how close are we to it? We have a better life. They (Sisulu and others) wrote their own story. What the next generation does with that story is up to them.”

Meanwhile, ANC Youth League task team president Nonceba Mhlauli said: “Women who are in fact the anchor of our branches in the ANC. They are the ones doing the heavy lifting. They have kept the ANC alive in the 109 years and will do so for the next 109 years. This year’s elections are the most difficult that the ANC is facing because of the state of local government in SA. The state of women in SA is dire.”

She said it was time to change the trajectory and ensure that young women and the youth in general occupy influential spaces.

“As young people when we get into councils, we want our peers to be mayors, we want MMCs, young municipal managers and finance officers,” she said.

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