President Cyril Ramaphosa says the government will host a Gender Summit which is aimed at addressing challenges faced by women, at the end of August.
The President said this when he addressed the Women’s Day celebrations in Mbekweni in Paarl in the Western Cape on Thursday.
He said across society – in towns small and cities large, in homes, in schools, in colleges and universities, in the streets, and in open spaces, a war is being waged against women.
He said a few days ago, women who participated in the #TotalShutDown march had given him a memorandum to highlight the plight of women in South Africa, and asked him to set up the gender summit as a matter of urgency.
“We must acknowledge, as a government and as a society, that since the advent of democracy we have failed to ensure that the women of South Africa are able to exercise their constitutional right to peace and security.
“In that sense, we have failed to live up to the promise of 1994.
“We, therefore, share a responsibility to correct this failing, to work together across society to fundamentally change attitudes, practices, and institutions to end violence against women.
“The women of our country in their memorandum they submitted to me at the Union Buildings suggested, demanded, called for, the holding of a National Gender Summit where they want to do discuss matters of national importance about how South Africa can give them the best life.
“Government has agreed that this National Gender Summit should take place on August 31 to forge consensus on approaches to effectively and urgently deal with the crisis of gender-based violence, discrimination against women and gender disparities,” he said.
Meanwhile, during the #TotalShutDown march, there were reports that some police officers ill-treated women who participated in the demonstration to the Union Buildings.
He said he has asked Police Minister Bheki Cele to ensure that action is taken against the police officers.
“It is a government in which there is no place for people who further victimise those who report violence against women or who protest against it.
“We are committed to dealing with any public servants especially our police officers who, through their treatment of survivors of violence, make the trauma and pain even worse,” he said.
Society remains violent against women
The President said, meanwhile, that the society remained violent against women as well as those who don’t conform to gender.
He said in ways that are both subtle and brutal, women are subjected to each and every day to verbal, emotional and physical abuse.
He said in a society that has long struggled against gender-based violence, the assault on the integrity and humanity of women has reached unprecedented levels.
“While it is difficult to establish the full extent of this epidemic – as many offences go unreported – studies show that the lifetime experience of South African women of gender-based violence is higher than the global average.
“Disturbingly, a significant percentage of South African men admit to perpetrating violence against women.
“Women are abused by virtue of the fact that they are women, transgender, are gender non-conforming or because of their sexual orientation,” the President said.
He also said that the violence that women are subjected to crosses boundaries of race and class, culture and language.
“Government is committed to doing its part through policies, programmes and practices that dramatically reduce levels of gender-based violence – and ultimately eradicate it – that ensure swift action against perpetrators, and which provide necessary support and protection to survivors of violence.
“Ultimately, however, violence against women is a societal issue – it requires that all of us, wherever we are, are actively engaged in ending this brutal assault on our people and on our society,” he said.
Programmes aimed at empowering young women
The President said, meanwhile, that government has placed the creation of jobs and training opportunities for young people – and especially young women – at the centre of the economic agenda.
He said that the country must recognise the fact that young women are doing much themselves, taking advantage of educational opportunities, starting businesses and bringing energy and innovation to a number of fields and occupations.
“Yet, despite the progress made, young people are more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population.
“Young women face additional challenges of gender inequality, discrimination and oppressive social practices.
“Therefore, each and every policy and programme that advances the empowerment of young people must make specific provision for the empowerment of young women.
“An important part of our effort will be to create pathways for young women into work.
“Many young black women do not have the skills, access to networks or exposure to the work environment to easily find employment.” – SAnews.gov.za