Women must redefine Africa’s agenda
The Women’s Charter, adopted at the 1954 founding conference of the Federation of SA Women – the first nonracial women’s organisation in the country – laid the foundation for democratic South Africa’s domestic and international prioritisation of women as an integral part of nation-building and development.
It indicated the aims of women of all races and creeds to, among others, fight for full citizenry characterised by equality and equal opportunities in all spheres of private and public life.
The charter states that “freedom cannot be won for any one section or for the people as a whole as long as we women are kept in bondage”.
This year also marks 20 years of the adoption of the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality from the deliberations of the national women’s coalition structures, approved at the ANC’s national conference.
This charter was specific in calling for action in the areas of equality; law and administration of justice; the economy; education and training; development, infrastructure and the environment; social services; political and civic life; health; media; customs, culture and religion; and violence against women.
We also celebrate Women’s Month in the context of the African Women’s Decade, initiated by the African Union (AU).
The initiative was launched in 2010 by AU heads of state and government to advance gender equality by accelerating the implementation of Dakar, Beijing and AU assembly decisions on gender equality and women’s empowerment through a top-down and bottom-up approach inclusive of grass-roots participation.
Since these undertakings, and in our 20 years of freedom, we have made progress in achieving the 1954 objectives. South Africa continues to invest in the promotion and protection of women and their rights with the belief that our country and continent need the full participation of women in all areas of life.
This includes participation in defining the paradigm and content of Africa’s development.
Last year, Africa’s leaders committed to a renewed focus on the development and integration agenda through the implementation of an overarching continental initiative called Agenda 2063.
The agenda will be people-driven with the objective of facilitating an Africa that is prosperous, integrated and at peace with itself.
The agenda’s goals can only be achieved with the full engagement of women and will be crucial to getting us where we want to be. The National Development Plan also highlights women’s central role in achieving South Africa’s domestic and international objectives. As a result, our department will be convening a consultation process with women from diverse backgrounds this month for views on how the agenda can be realised.
The consultations offer an opportunity for women to define the future they want for Africa, to take the future into our own hands.
Women’s Month is an opportunity to pay tribute to the thousands of women on whose shoulders we stand and is an opportunity to pay tribute to all African women who, in various circumstances and in different areas, are the backbone of our communities and nations. The celebration calls on us to reflect on our role in our future and the agenda presents this opportunity.
Nkoana-Mashabane is minister of international relations and cooperation
African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma