Continue, hon Minister.
The MINISTER OF WOMEN, CHILDREN AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: ... that the path we are on has been a long and difficult one.
Yinde lendlela! [We have a long way to go!]
This was started over a century ago through the heroic struggles of the "sheroes" and stalwarts of our struggle, such as Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Sophie De Bruyn, Dorothy Nyembe, Albertina Sisulu, Ruth Mompati, Victoria Mxenge, Mmadinoge, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and many others, who are the embodiment of 101 years of the relentless forward march towards the total emancipation of women in South Africa. [Applause.]
In the past century the struggle for women empowerment and gender equality has been fought against the deeply entrenched patriarchal system that subjected the majority of our women in South Africa to triple oppression. These women said that the women of South Africa must fight side by side with their men. Today, they are free from the triple oppression wherein they were oppressed as women, as black people and as workers.
It was former President Nelson Mandela who, during his inaugural state of the nation address 20 years ago, asserted that -
... freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. ... and ... have been empowered to intervene in all aspects of life as equals with any other member of society.
This assertion has placed on all of us a responsibility to ensure that we accelerate efforts towards the empowerment of women so that they are indeed freed from all forms of oppression. If you have never experienced the effects of colonialism and apartheid, combined with the highly patriarchal system that we continue to live in, you cannot begin to appreciate the need for a vehicle such as the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill to accelerate the empowerment of women in our society - socially, politically and economically - towards the total emancipation of women.
Why is there such a Bill? There is consensus from various quarters, and internationally, that South Africa has some of the most progressive policies and laws that are aimed at advancing women empowerment and gender equality.
However, while significant strides have been made to empower women and promote gender equality, women still bear a disproportionate burden of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Women continue to be marginalised and discriminated against in regard to economic opportunities and the labour market, as well as access to land, credit and finance.
Again, just like in many other areas where transformation is needed, the women of this country have vociferously called upon the ANC-led government to ensure that their lot does not remain marginalised forever. Hence, the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill seeks to ensure that gender is mainstreamed in all spheres of life, both in the public and private sectors.
The Bill will also ensure that policies and laws are engendered, while equal and full representation of women in decision-making structures is enforced.
This justifies the relentless struggles of the women of 1913, when they decided that enough was enough and they would not carry passes in their motherland any more, and the women of 1956, when they marched to the Union Buildings and told J G Strijdom, "Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo uzakufa" [When you strike a woman, you strike a rock, and you will die.]
These stalwarts and many others longed to see this day. I have no doubt that wherever they are today, they are smiling in the knowledge that we have not betrayed their cause.
Bayalilizela lapho bekhona. Bathi, malibongwe igama lamakhosikazi, malibongwe! [They are ululating wherever they are. They are saying, let the name of women be praised, let it be praised!]
Hon members, let me comment on some arguments that were advanced against this Bill. With regard to the constitutionality of the Bill, the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, under the Bill of Rights, states in section 9(2):
Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote ... equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.
Regarding the duplication of other laws as well as the Commission for Gender Equality, those who cry duplication have failed to indicate specifically where this duplication is, except for making wide references to legislation. The Bill does not seek to duplicate existing legislation. Furthermore, it will ensure that women are prioritised in various Acts. The Ministry's mandate and that of the Commission for Gender Equality, if anything, give greater opportunity to work together to advance gender equality.
The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill fights for the progressive realisation of the aim of at least 50% representation of women in decision- making structures. The minority within this House have chosen to ignore two key words - "progressive realisation". Instead, they wrongly state that the Bill is a top-down manipulation to achieve equality. Quite clearly, they do not want women empowered in this country. It is regrettable that women's poverty remains the central manifestation and direct result of a lack of social, economic and political power that women should enjoy, which reinforces subordination and constraints.
The ANC is the only political party to have adopted the 50/50 representation of women in all its structures and at all levels of society, which is fortunate. The 50% gender parity policy that is articulated in the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill being debated here today is due to the ANC. [Interjections.]