South African Deputy Minister in the Presidency, Thembi Seweya, says women have an important role to play in building the country’s economy, creating jobs and uplifting families out of poverty.
“The promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment is central to our efforts to combat poverty and stimulate sustainable development,” the Deputy Minister said.
She was addressing the South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID) seminar underway at the University of South Africa (UNISA) campus in Pretoria.
Seweya said it is important that the relevant public and private sector institutions support women’s initiatives and assist in removing potential economic and social inhibitors such as access to land, funding, technology, mentorship, training, and gender-based violence.
“We have to start by ensuring that women have access to land and are capacitated to turn it into viable businesses.
“The funding model needs to be consistently monitored to ensure that women enterprises are prioritised and the repayment models are flexible enough to allow for growth and development,” she said.
Seweya said in this advent of the fourth industrial revolution, there is a need to link women with relevant science and technology-driven business solutions that will improve their business creativity and potential, and reward those women who have used technology to grow their business.
“We are grateful that the GWE (Gender and Women Empowerment) unit already had such foresight and initiated the Technology for Women in Business (TWIB) to accelerate women’s economic empowerment and the development of women-owned enterprises.
“Women cannot continue to operate on the margins of the economy. We need to nurture young girls at an early age to aspire to own and lead profitable enterprises,” Seweya said.
Seweya commended initiatives such SAWID, the Youth Economic Alliance, South African Women in Construction (SAWIC) and the United Nations for their commitment to creating a conducive environment for women businesses to thrive.
“We urge more women who have broken the glass ceiling to extend their hands to other women, especially those in previously disadvantaged communities. We have to create platforms such as these for women to share experiences and assist each other to overcome economic hurdles,” she said.
In his welcoming remarks, UNISA Principal and Vice Chancellor Professor M Makhanya said women-owned enterprises must be accelerated.
“Generally, women are cast out. Now is the time they should rise.”
Makhanya said as women make up over half the population of the continent, they should be enabled to unleash their potential in building economies.
He said women must be prioritised when it comes to funding and they are generally faithful with making repayments.
“In some instances, women are capable of raising families single-handedly. They are capable of doing… anything,” Makhanya said.
SAWID is an independent South African Women’s platform committed to hearing the voice of every woman and to improving the status of women by engaging national government, the private sector, civil society, (including non-governmental organisations, community-based organisations and faith-based organisations and donors) in partnership to shape community, provincial and continental agendas.
In 2011, South African women articulated their priorities for the National Development Plan of the country, highlighting poverty eradication, early childhood development, reduction of violence against women and civil society coordination as the areas they most wished to pay attention to, and pointing to the need for income generation in all these areas.