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									SPEECH BY MS BUYELWA SONJICA, MP, MINISTER OF MINERALS AND ENERGY AT THE NATIONAL HISTORY MUSEUM, PRETORIA. th 10 DECEMBER 2008 Programme Director Director-General Distinguished guests Ladies and Gentlemen Let me begin by thanking the organizers of this event for bringing us together to reflect upon the pertinent issues of women development and advancement. I would also like to extend a warm welcome to all our guests who have taken the time to be with us today. Allow me to reiterate the fact that matters of women abuse are looked upon dimly not just by society but by our government. This is the sole reason that the offices responsible for women and children’s issues are located in the highest office in the land, the Presidency. There is legislation in place that seeks to assist and protect these vulnerable groups against abuse. The 16 Days Campaign is not a public relations exercise but is meant to highlight the seriousness with which violence against women is taken. Let us use this time to not only fight against abuse but also to build stronger family ties which will avert the possibilities of violence or its occurrence without notice and reporting. Ladies and gentlemen, ours is a constitutional democracy. Issues of non-violence are a vital part of our formative and instructive documents, namely, the Freedom Charter as well

as our Constitution. The string of commemorative events during the month of December, advocate for the respect and observance of the laws and policies that protect the rights of vulnerable groups in our society. DME as part of government has been participating in the 16 Days of Activism On No Violence Against Women and Children campaign since 1998. As a Department, we decided to combine the two commemorative days of the World Aids Day on the 1st of December and the International Day of the Disabled on the 3rd December. One of the known ways to support the 16 days campaign is to wear the white ribbon, as I have done today. In our country this is a way of showing support for all different issues that we raise awareness on and support. Just to mention a few, we put on a white ribbon for 16 days, red ribbon for HIV/AIDS and a pink ribbon for breast cancer. It is very important for all of us to support these initiatives as part of our programmes as all are about our livelihood and wellness. I would then like to give a background to the white ribbon. It is basic knowledge that white symbolizes peace. It is also common that peace means one thing to all of us notwithstanding our race, creed or cultures. Peace also connotes happiness, freedom and forgiveness, which are the critical elements of the16 Days campaign. I would like to acknowledge the contribution of my department in the bigger picture of the work of vulnerable groups. We played a big role in working on the convention on the rights of the disabled persons in the UN, which was finally ratified by South Africa and the name of DME is listed

in that report. What is remaining now is to ensure that we implement that convention. I also received correspondence from the Presidency regarding the 15 year review reports that we have to submit soon. I am positive that our report will reflect all the good work that was done in that area and also on the compliance with the Framework on Gender. The Tri-partite on HIV/AIDS is also doing good work to ensure that the mining sector also comes up with programmes that will deal with this terrible scourge that is ravaging our country. It is critical to put the issue of HIV and AIDS at the top of the mining sector’s agenda as we know women, both able and disabled, suffer twice over. Besides the results of normal abuse, there is also the great possibility of having to care for the husbands who could return to the far-flung homesteads in a sickly state. The 16 Days campaign of No Violence Against Women and Children is in its 9th year and the campaign has played a significant role in creating and promoting awareness in this regard throughout our country. It is disappointing though to learn that men in some parts of our communities still disapprove of this campaign, and they express that by brutalizing women and children during this period. The awareness in the past nine years has grown but, there is still a great need to translate that into behavioural change. The legislation that is in place to protect the victims of gender disempowerment played a great role, not only in ensuring that victims are protected but also in changing the manner in which the justice system deals with this sensitive issue.


The workshops and the “speak against abuse” theme assisted us also to realize that we can no longer just speak as we used to. In the past children and women used to be told to guard against strangers, but I can say that the danger is now in the houses and around people we know, a sign that gender violence has spiraled up. I want to therefore send a clear message that government will not tolerate such men, whom in my view are still fighting to have the abuse of women condoned as cultural or traditional norm. Women need to be given the same treatment and choices as men. In the past, we experienced situations where women where killed for disclosing their HIV/AIDS status or for disclosing their sexual choice as lesbians. (A case in point here would be the girl killed by three men at Khayelitsha for stating just that!) We used the occasion of the tenth anniversary of our democracy to intensify efforts aimed at engendering a spirit of solidarity amongst women of South Africa. In order to sustain this objective, government will continue to implement and support programmes that aim at strengthening the advancement and development of women. Policies and legislations are also in place to ensure compliance and government is committed to increasing its support for the mobilization of the industry to also support Women Development programmes. All our government’s programmes which are broadly aimed at creating work, fighting poverty and promoting equality are premised on the basis of improving the quality of life. It is strong men and women gathered in here today that should insist on building and ensuring a better life for all including our vulnerable groups.

I would like at this point to express my sincere appreciation to the efforts taken by government and NGOs in this month of December to seriously reflect on our progress, review the plans to overcome challenges and reward achievements where necessary.
A brief History of South African Women – Herstory

I also would like to take this opportunity to just relate the history and a brief background of women participation in fighting for the rights of all by saying that South Africa women were in the forefront in the long struggle to dismantle apartheid and colonialism. They fought against the racist pass laws through defiance campaigns. The first people to march and protest against the pass laws and the 1913 Land Act in Winburg in the Free State in 1913 were women. An ordinary rural peasant woman called MaModisepudi, who worked closely with Charlotte Maxeke, who was the national leader of the Bantu Women’s League, the forerunner of the ANCWL, led them. In the beginning, women were not recognized as full members of the ANC, even though they were present at the launch of the ANC in 1912. The mother of King Sobhuza of Swaziland was there and she also funded the first report of the ANC Inaugural Conference. Women fought for recognition as full members in the ANC throughout the Twenties and Thirties. They were ultimately recognized as full members at the ANC conference of 1943. Women in the trade union movement served in leadership positions since the Forties. These were the women who played a leading role in the formation of the ANC Women’s

League in 1948, the Federation of South African Women in 1954. The first President of the ANCWL was Ida Mntwana, of Port Elizabeth. One of our great women leaders in the struggle at this time was Ray Alexander, who arrived in South Africa at the tender age of 15, and immediately joined the Trade Union movement and the fight against apartheid. She was a fearless fighter for the rights of women, Women spearheaded the campaign to launch the Women’s Charter of 1954, and led the march against passes on the 9th August 1956. This Charter was incorporated into the Freedom Charter that was adopted on the 26th June 1955 at the People’s Congress in Kliptown, Johannesburg.The Women’s Charter for Effective Equality, which was produced by the NWC and finally incorporated in our new constitution and Bill of Rights in 1996, was based on the Women’s Charter of 1954. 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings against the pass laws in 1956 led by Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophie de Bruyn (nee Williams) and Rahima Moosa as some of you might be aware At the height of state brutality under apartheid, all progressive political organizations were banned, some of the women were forced into exile, some went to prison and others resisted and remained inside the country and continued the struggle. We in South Africa are fortunate that in our democracy, a strong women’s movement and widespread network of nongovernmental organizations which have robust grassroots presence and deep insight into women’s concerns, have inspired many initiatives for the empowerment of women. In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the need for further strengthening of the Women, Disabled and HIV/AIDS

Programmes within the DME to ensure that the equality that we preach is realized by all. It is important for us as government to ensure that all our legislations are implemented by government and the private sector .Finally I would like to say “DON’T LOOK AWAY, ACT AGAIST ABUSE” I thank you


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