Hon Chairperson and hon members, it gives me great pleasure to stand before you to present this statement after a process that I think represents yet another milestone in the fight for the emancipation of women in our country.
On 27 April 2014, a month from today, our country will be celebrating 20 years since the advent of the democratic dispensation. During that time we have made much progress in laying the groundwork for advancing the rights of women, starting with the founding document that binds us all, the Constitution of the Republic, and ending with this Bill before us today, the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill.
Hon Chair, this progress was made possible through the efforts of the ANC and its deployees in government, as well as other role-players in the arena of the struggle. As the ANC we are proud of the progress we have made but, at the same time, we acknowledge that a lot more needs to be done to do away with discrimination based on gender and also to empower women.
The point we seek to make here is that whereas the historical realities of our country continue to hold us back, the material conditions that prevail today are much more conducive to enabling society to accelerate empowerment programmes for women.
I want to take this opportunity to salute Mama Mahlangu, a stalwart and freedom fighter. Mama, you have sacrificed much of your life and that of your children for the liberation of women and gender equality in this country.
Farewell Mama, and go tell others that South Africa is a better place for women to live in. Tell them the good story that the ANC-led government is passing a Bill that calls for 50% representation of women in the public and private sectors. In other words, as women we are no longer objects or subjects in the hands of others, but we are masters of our own destiny.
In terms of the Social Institutions and Gender Index of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, we are number 4 out of 87 countries in the 2012 index. [Applause.] The same index places us as the top country in Africa. This is indeed a good story to tell.
It is in this context that we, as the ANC, recommend to the Council that it consents to this Bill, which seeks to provide a legislative framework for both private and public bodies for the empowerment of women, as well as the appointment and representation of women in decision-making positions and structures.
It is our considered view that there ought to be sufficient consensus across all political parties on this piece of legislation because its passing here today will represent a victory for women, and this will be part of the good story of our country. We are very disappointed that the DA and the Western Cape provincial legislature are voting against the Bill as they are again showing their disregard for the ability of women in this country. Women of corporate South Africa must remember when they go out to vote on 7 May 2014 that the DA does not support their progress and empowerment. [Interjections.] They do not believe that women can be leaders in the business and private sectors. [Interjections.]