President Cyril Ramaphosa said Wednesday that women’s empowerment is an integral part of the government’s efforts to achieve inclusive growth, create jobs and expand economic opportunities for all.
Ramaphosa said at the opening of the first Women Economic Assembly (Wecona) in Modderfontein, east of Johannesburg, that empowering women is a task that requires dedicated and relentless attention from all sectors of society.
“It is therefore perfectly clear that women’s economic empowerment is not a technical task achieved simply by improving policies and introducing progressive programs.
“It is basically a process of fundamental social transformation in which every institution, every sector and every citizen must be involved,” said Ramaphosa in his opening address to the meeting.
Wecona was a hybrid event that brought together business women, government leaders and civil servants, private companies, civil society organizations and other stakeholders.
The initiative aims to facilitate the participation of women-owned companies in key areas of the economy in order to promote sustainable economic development.
High unemployment rate among women
With nearly 37% of women unemployed in South Africa compared with 32% of men, Ramaphosa said that empowering women economically would reduce their vulnerability to abuse and violence.
He said that women’s economic empowerment meant they were less dependent on male partners and had a better chance of leaving an abusive relationship.
“These disparities are not just the product of a profoundly unbalanced economy; they also arise from the inequality of the sexes in society – and contribute to it.
“[About] 42% of children in South Africa live only with their mother, compared to 4% who live only with their father. The huge gap in parental responsibility creates a huge gap in economic opportunities and circumstances, ”Ramaphosa said.
The President said the gathering is therefore important to ensure the economic empowerment of women in South Africa.
“It is basically a process of fundamental social transformation in which every institution, every sector and every citizen must be involved.”
National strategic plan
Ramaphosa said a significant portion of the R21 billion that national government departments would have allocated over the next few years to implement the National Strategic Plan will be earmarked for economic empowerment programs.
The National Strategic Plan, launched in 2020, aims to create more economic opportunities for women as part of its pillars.
“The Presidency, in cooperation with departments such as the Department for Women, Social Development, Small Business, Rural Development and Land Reform and the National Treasury, has developed a strategy to achieve preferential procurement of 40% in the public sector.
“Current public procurement accounts for 9% of GDP, which is roughly R500 billion annually. Of this, 12% went to women-owned companies in the first and second quarters of 2021. “
The president added that the government, in partnership with industry, has begun building the ability of women-owned companies to come up with proposals for the provision of goods and services in the public and private sectors.
“I would like to encourage other industries and economic sectors to join this initiative and make their commitments and action plans for the empowerment of women,” he said.
Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe