Dina Pule - 100 Years of International Women's Day Commemoration

29 March 2011

29 March 2011

NYDA Board Members present,
Chief Executive Officer, Mr Steven Ngubeni
NYDA beneficiaries,
Distinguished guests,
I greet you all 

I am humbled to be part of this occasion today to celebrate the NYDA International Women’s Day. This year is a significant year which marks the first centenary of the commemoration of the International Women’s Day.

Since the commemoration of the first International Women’s Day in 1911, there have been many firsts for South African women. Allow me to focus on a few;

  • Mary Fitzgerald, the first female City Councillor
  • Mary Malahlela-Xakana, the first black female doctor
  • Miriam Makeba, the first South African and African female to win a Grammy Award
  • Patricia De Lille, the first female to lead a political party
  • Kass Naidoo, the first female cricket commentator
  • Pholile Mpofu, the first black female dermatologist
  • Ferial Haffajee, the first female Editor of a national newspaper 
  • Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the first female Deputy President
  • And Gill Marcus, the first female Central Bank Governor


Women are also well represented in government, twenty-nine of government Ministers and Deputy Ministers are women and lead some of the most powerful Ministries, including International Relations and Co-operation, Home Affairs, Mining, and Defence and Military Veterans. In addition, five out of nine Premiers are women. This is indeed a great achievement for our young yet very strong democracy. There are of course many others who have made a mark in a variety of industries.

Although women have been able to make these strides because of their tenacity and hard work, the conducive non–sexist environment that the post-apartheid government has created and the support from our fathers, uncles, brothers, partners, colleagues and neighbours cannot go unnoticed.

This is not to say we have reached the ceiling, but rather a statement that we have come a long way and we will continue to knock down those barriers and pull our not so privileged sisters up. So what type of challenges do we now need to overcome so that women in all corners of the country can excel and lead fulfilling lives? The challenges have of course changed since the days of Charlotte Maxeke, a women’s rights activist who has made great achievements, such as, being the first black South African woman to hold a BSC and the first black South African woman to be a Probation Officer.

Research has shown that women overwhelmingly bear the responsibility for being breadwinners for families in our society and have a significant influence on young people’s lives. Therefore it is important for us to support women and assist them overcome challenges if we want to develop our communities.

One of the challenges that women are facing was mentioned by the President in detail during the 2011 State of the Nation Address and that is access to economic opportunities.

According to the 2010 SMME Survey sponsored by the NYDA, there are more men than women owners of emerging market businesses. Also a substantially higher proportion of women own small businesses at 35% versus established businesses which is at 26%. This means that more needs to be done to encourage women to enter into business. More needs to be done to support women to sustain their businesses.

The role of small enterprises as an important source of jobs cannot be overemphasised. In his 2011 Budget Speech the Finance Minister highlighted that small businesses account for 68% of the private sector employment.
As government we wish to reaffirm our commitment to you that we will continue to support small enterprises in the drive to create more jobs in South Africa.

Even though the International Women’s Day theme is, Equal access to education, training and science and technology: Pathway to decent work for women, I think that the NYDA’s theme, Entrepreneurship: Pathway to job creation and decent work for women, is equally relevant. Many of you that are here today would agree because through entrepreneurship you have been able to sustain yourselves, create employment and contribute towards the South African economy. What you have managed to achieve is proof that young women do not have to rely on anyone including men for economic support, a decision that often results in high levels of teenage pregnancy and a high HIV infection rate in women. We hope more women can follow in your footsteps and become job creators.

Once we have “made it” we should never forget other women who are still struggling. To prevent vulnerable young women from being enticed by promises of economic benefits, society as a whole has a role to play.

Government has a role to play by laying the right foundation through a good education system and by implementing conducive policies. The private sector can procure services from women and employ more women, especially in leadership positions.

And government institutions such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), the Industrial Development Corporation, SEDA, Khula, National Empowerment Fund and many others must make their programmes and services accessible to young women, especially the most vulnerable who are often located in the rural areas without easy access to the internet and information.

That young woman, who is known for her ability to produce beautiful braiding hairstyles and often braids her friends and neighbours at no charge, should be able to walk into these institutions’ offices and get financial and no-financial business support services so that she can open a hair salon and employ other young women and indeed men, in their communities. In addition, through the NYDA’s support the caravan lady at the corner who sells meals to construction workers can secure a contract to manage the local factory’s canteen.

To you the NYDA beneficiaries who are now running your own businesses, we salute you and acknowledge that you also need additional support so that you can develop and expand your businesses. However I also challenge you today to be more responsible for your own success. It is also your responsibility to ensure your business remains sustainable by reinvesting in your business.
Because you know how difficult it has been to attain some of achievements you have made to date, I urge you to also pay it forward. You need to reach out to other young women in your communities, as they need positive role models like you, who can mentor them so that they know that the possibilities are endless. When you have received a business loan from a government institution you also need to return the funds so that another woman can also be assisted. That is how the circle of development works.

As I conclude, it is important to note that although we have made strides, in industries where women are underrepresented, for instance, in 2007 Lieutenant Phetogo Molawa became the first black female helicopter pilot in the SA Air Force and in 1999 Abrie de Viliers became the first woman to qualify as a miner, we can definitely still do more.

The barriers have been lifted and it is up to us to explore and excel in industries such as, agriculture, tourism, the green economy, engineering, science and technology and finance.

There is a Setswana proverb that says; Dikgomo ga di ke di etelelwa ke namagadi pele (Cattle are always led by an ox, not a cow. By the same token, women can never be leaders, but followers of men). Traditional stereotypes and proverbs such as these have reduced women to passive and inferior beings. However, the exceptional women I have mentioned and the women that are in this room today and many others who wake up everyday to realise their dreams, prove that in spite of prejudice women continue to lead and alter their lives and the lives of others. Go out there and take your rightful place in leadership positions.

I wish you all the success in your endeavours. I thank you.

Issued by: Government Communications (GCIS)
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