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Minister Lynne Brown's speech at UN Women workshop in Cape Town

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Minister Lynne Brown's speech at UN Women workshop in Cape Town
02/06/2015
Women Economic Empowerment cannot be delayed any more, especially in countries such as South Africa that find themselves faced with high levels of poverty and income gaps with inequalities reaching unacceptable levels. This situation defeats the basis of the struggles of many especially women for a non-racial, non-sexist, and prosperous society.

Let me take this opportunity to applaud the UN Women Knowledge Gateway for Women's Economic Empowerment as a global initiative to raise the agenda of enhancing women capabilities, using virtual platforms to connect and learn from each other as active participants in their own economic freedoms. Women are of critical importance in contributing to development of economies, thus are no longer closed down into "match-boxes" in the roles they are supposed to play both in their homes, and in society at large.

Mobilization for social upliftment and progress continue to be a critical tool to defend the gains of struggles of women across the globe. As such, technology has opened a new wave of platform that enables a wider spectrum and platform for women to unlock their potential.

In the context of South Africa, the WOMEN ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT STRATEGY defines "women's economic empowerment" as "the ability of all women to fully participate in, contribute to and benefit from economic growth and development". This is a clear articulation to the call made in Kliptown in 1955 through the Freedom Charter that "The People shall Share in the Country's wealth".

This was echoed in Minister Nene's Budget Vote Speech when he announced the allocation to the tune of almost R40bn to employment and enterprise development in his Budget Vote of this year. This is supported by the efforts of the state to roll out broadband infrastructure so to increase access to information technology for small business and the overall competitiveness of our economy. It is therefore important to ensure women's economic empowerment to benefit through government's initiatives in the information and communication technology space.

It's a pleasure to introduce Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, as Executive Director of UN Women and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, at today's workshop.

It is appropriate that I as Minister of Public Enterprises introduce the Executive Director of UN Women. It resonates with my own mission to ensure that the State-Owned Companies in my portfolio: Transnet, SA Express, Denel, Alexkor, Safcol and Eskom actively promote small business.

As recently as Friday, I launched Transnet's fourth Business Development Hub in Saldanha Bay in the Western Cape to benefit more women owned companies. This is an intervention by the State through its SOC, to amongst others boost local businesses especially empowerment to women owned businesses. It is also important to highlight the continuing engagements that the company held with Business Women Association in the area of how the hub could be of meaningful service to grow their businesses.  This holds true given the Saldanha IDZ development in the area that must be a window of opportunity, and trading platform for women business and locals in the area. 

Through the development of the small business venture, Transnet, as a State-Owned Company, recognised the role it has to play in small business development. Through this hub small businesses can have easy access to products and services offered by both national and provincial economic developmental institutions under the same roof.

If this message is to find resonance in our daily activities and interventions we design, surely the Knowledge Gateway is of utmost importance, as it widens the horizon for women.  Access to information, that helps to even bridge the wider gap of access to markets for small and women businesses, is an immediate intervention that set up any enterprise.

When women in rural communities and townships, take the first risk and bold step of starting a business with no fear of failure, information should be at their fingertips to navigate the world of business. This will require further innovation of using local languages, and using these platforms for women to also showcase their goods and services. I am confident that this will be replicated by the State Owned Companies.

Great women leaders, including in Business sector should be visiting speakers and motivators in these platforms as role-models. The local women must be eager to share their success stories at the next chat session for women even in other countries to learn on opportunities and possibilities of success.

Therefore, it is important that through Facebook and other networking platforms that, women are empowered to ensure regional and global integration in alleviating poverty and ensuring equality.

Now let me introduce a comrade and friend, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka who will deliver the opening address today. She was appointed by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to this post in July 2013.

Prior to that she served as South Africa's first female Deputy President in the administration of President Thabo Mbeki from 2005 to 2008.

She also served as Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry from 1996 to 1999, as Minister of Minerals and Energy from 1999 to 2005.

Like many of us, she was active in the struggle against apartheid. She served as the first president of South Africa's Natal Organisation of Women, an affiliate of the United Democratic Front, the anti-apartheid movement.

Mlambo-Ngcuka also worked as the World Young Women's Christian Association Youth Director in Geneva before returning to South Africa, where she worked to promote economic development and skills training and help squatter women.

At the end of her term as Deputy President. She established the Umlambo Foundation in 2008 to provide support to schools in impoverished areas in South Africa and Malawi.

 

I now call the Executive Director of UN women to the podium.

 

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