Michele du Plessis
Women have always been instrumental in the advancement of the human cause. They have played a crucial role in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality. “The women of today are engaged in a new frontier of struggle. It is a struggle for equal rights, dignity, economic liberation and freedom from violence.
And yet it is women who always bear the brunt of inequality, discrimination, marginalisation, poverty and violence,” President Ramaphosa, Women’s Day 2021. “Despite significant progress, our country remains divided, with opportunity still shaped by the legacy of apartheid. In particular, young people and women are denied the opportunities to lead the lives that they desire. Our Constitution requires of us to tackle these challenges.” – Extracts from the National Development Plan.
COVID-19 has affected the lives and livelihoods of our people with women the hardest hit. The informal sector was excessively hard hit by lockdown and women’s job losses were greater in all types of employment. It is estimated that men are three times more likely to return to informal sector jobs than women.
“We call on all government departments and the Private Sector to give 40% of procurement to women-owned business even when there’s no legislation as we all have a moral duty to have a just and equal society as enshrined in our constitution and reach 50-50 by 2030,” Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Women’s Day 2021.
Although progress has been made to improve the lives of women; discrimination, patriarchal attitudes and poor access to quality education persists. The plan deals with these factors holistically, recognising that key priorities such as education or rural development will have the biggest impact on poor women.
“Women are more vulnerable to and are more deeply affected by poverty than men. They face institutionalised challenges in gaining access to land and land ownership, employment, and remain largely unrecognised by and excluded from the formal economy. If a national strategy to reduce poverty, exclusion and inequality, such as the NDP, does not specifically recognise and address these engendered imbalances and vulnerabilities, then it will unwittingly perpetuate them, and have very little prospect of socio-economic transformation towards a gender-equal society.” Department of Women, Strategic Plan.
“Empowerment, as understood and promoted in the context of development, implies the reduction of the inequality gap, elimination of poverty and an increase in decent work for women. It requires a multidimensional and interdependent process that involves implemented and monitored social, political, economic and legal changes that will enable women to participate meaningfully in shaping their futures. Without meaningful empowerment, participation can quickly become a token exercise or even a means of maintaining power relations; and without meaningful participation, empowerment can remain just another unfulfilled promise. Empowerment and participation are deeply complementary and can be considered both processes and outcomes.
Meaningful empowerment and participation require significant changes in power relations. Many approaches to empowerment tend to focus on the empowering of those who are in positions of power and strengthening their capabilities to act, but do not always pay attention to shifting the structures, societal norms and barriers that enable and constrain the behaviour of all parties involved. That is all men and women, including those in power and those that vote them in.”
“Including more women at all levels of the labour market is an economic and social imperative. Entrepreneurship is recognised as an essential driver of economic development and growth and a potential vehicle for women empowerment. Yet again, women remain under-represented as entrepreneurs. We are actively involved in empowering women with the skills they need to enter the labour force or grow their businesses. This has resulted in job creation, poverty reduction, healthier families, more stable communities and a significantly increased GDP per capita,” Najwah Allie-Edries, Head of the Jobs Fund said in an article featured on www.bbrief.co.za.
According to The Jobs Fund webpage, “the objective of the Jobs Fund is to co-finance projects by public, private and non-governmental organisations that will significantly contribute to job creation. This involves the use of public money to catalyse innovation and investment on behalf of a range of economic stakeholders in activities that contribute directly to enhanced employment creation in South Africa. These funding interventions will seek to overcome some of the barriers to job creation that have been identified. Some of these relate to demand labour, some to the supply of labour and some to the broader institutional environment. The Jobs Fund has been designed specifically to overcome these barriers by providing public funding through four “funding windows” i.e. Enterprise Development; Infrastructure Investment; Support for Work Seekers and Institutional Capacity Building.”
“Women are catalysts of positive change in society; they are a force for social stability and inclusive development. When women do better, economies do better,” Najwah Allie-Edries concluded.
For more information about The Jobs Fund, visit www.jobsfund.org.za.
Michele du Plessis