28 September 2012
Representatives of political parties
Comrades and Colleagues,
Thank you for helping us entrench democracy within our ranks. This superbly organised Provincial Conference of the ANCWL in Gauteng bears testimony to our great achievements. Not only do we look forward to democratically elected women leaders for the province. We also look forward to revolutionary ideas and programmes. Notwithstanding local and global challenges we face as women in a world historically biased in favour of men, we`re on track towards total women`s emancipation and gender equality.
According to the 2012 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer, constitutions of most countries in our region enshrine non-discrimination generally and non-discrimination based on sex. It says 9 SADC constitutions provide for the promotion of women and 7 have other provisions relating to gender equality. The Barometer lists among milestones the fact that South Africa now has a draft Gender Equality Bill that enshrines many of the provisions of the SADC Gender Protocol. Convening a conference of this nature shows the advances we`re making in uniting women behind the banner of the political home of progressive women - the ANCWL. Malibongwe! Our rich heritage Comrades, we have much to celebrate. Given our rich heritage as a league of women of the oldest liberation movement in Africa, our task is clearly cut out for us.
Since the ANC was formed in 1912, and the Bantu Women`s League in 1918, we have distinguished ourselves as a movement commanding moral supremacy. Given our rich heritage, we carry on our shoulders the burden of ensuring that in our country, and in our ranks, "no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Hebrews 12:15). This Conference is so vital for us in so far as defending our gains and our movement is concerned, just as the 53rd ANC National Conference is crucial. History, the nation and its children, expect more of women. It is us who lead a blameless life, nurturing families and societies.
The world over, men are known to run amok, causing wars, spreading rumours of war and throwing into turmoil currencies and the global financial system. Thus, we have this crisis, eating at jobs, stifling progress, undermining economic growth, letting loose the widening gyre of inequalities and impacting negatively on development. For a better world order, for peace and for prosperity, we need unity, collective action and sisterhood within our ranks. In times of war, it is the women and the children who suffer the most. In spite of our marginalisation, women have enriched every struggle with a host of impeccable and visionary leaders from whom we all must learn.
We speak here of the indomitable spirit of Charlotte Maxeke. We pay tribute to Lillian Ngoyi, Dorothy Nyembe, Helen Joseph, Sophie de Bruyn, Rahima Moosa, and many others. We are forever indebted to Charlotte Maxeke for the crucial role she had played in the struggle. This pioneer, freedom fighter and women rights campaigner, laid the foundation for the formation of the ANCWL. Charlotte Maxeke was the founding president of our forerunner, the Bantu Women`s League. She led the historical Women`s March against the pass laws in Bloemfontein, in 1913. Thanks to her efforts, and of the many brave women of our country, next year we will celebrate 100 Years of the 1913 Women`s March against the pass laws. This is the best way to honour the bravery and leadership of the women of 1913. It is the heroic path Comrade Maxeke chose that we must emulate.
As President Jacob Zuma noted in August in the Memorial Lecture in her honour, "Comrade Maxeke believed that women must play a leading role in building up our movement in its struggle to defeat the enemies of the people and achieve liberation." Our eye is still on the ball Contrary to perceptions, we have not lost the plot. Only the ANC and the masses of our people can keep South Africa on the direct route to a society founded on the Freedom Charter. With Africa, we have recently celebrated the election of Cde Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who next week reports for duty as Chairperson of the African Union Commission. A few hours before her tenure, we wish her the best of luck. This development has broadened the space to intensify the gender agenda on the continent and abroad. Gauteng cadres must show us how to make this truly the Decade of Women.
You should draw strength from the fact that the huge strides we`re making to reverse the age-old evils of patriarchy are reverberating across the world. In this context, we hosted, in Cape Town, the 20th Congress of Socialist International Women. Our Aim Without fail, our approach has always recognised the intersection of the national, gender and class questions. The constitution of the WL affirms that women have always been part of the national liberation struggle. We must continue to organise women for the development of South Africa. I believe, in the second phase of the transition, our central aim should be to build an abiding culture of human rights for all, ensuring real equality for women and eliminating patriarchal relations, by mainstreaming gender in all spheres.
I believe if we can do these things and devise as Conference provincial programmes around our ideals, we can realise one of key aims and objectives of our constitution, that is: "To combat discrimination in public and in private life, and to work actively towards the dismantling of the patriarchal system, the elimination of laws, customs, practices and structures which militate against equality" (ANCWL Constitution, 2008).
Challenges and threats Notwithstanding our gains, we cannot afford to be complacent. For a new democracy like ours, with reactionary forces so aligned against progressive forces, the price of intolerance, dishonesty and disunity is very high to pay. The terror and tragedy of 18 September which left us with 8 South Africans dead in Afghanistan says much about the evils of intolerance in a divided world. The Kabul attack was more shattering on the day when we should have been relieved by the breakthrough in the labour dispute in Marikana, which also highlighted the pitfalls of spontaneity, disunity and intimidation.
There is still much to be done. Gender disparities in economic power-sharing are still a factor in the poverty of women. We know that women still earn a meagre 10% of the world`s income when they produce half of the world`s food. Opportunities and strengths We won 50% gender representation at the Polokwane conference. Going to Mangaung, as a collective united behind a clear and decisive pro-women agenda, we have the potential to build on our gains. It is not enough to agree on principles. We want to see action. The question of gender should be prioritised in each and every policy document and programme. Our top priorities should continue to include rural development, as a strategic campaign.
Most people in rural areas are women. We`re happy that the ANC government is making inroads in those areas of development that are fundamental for sustainably empowering women and children. For instance in Diyatalawa and Makholokoeng, in the Free State, government is building community infrastructure that includes schools, crèches, a community hall, solar geysers, housing, two clinics and a dairy. In Ludondolo, in the Eastern Cape, government is constructing the Dalibhunga bridge in Mvezo and a 10 km access road. With President Jacob Zuma, next week we will open 4 of 49 schools we`re building in the Eastern Cape. Looking ahead Comrades and Friends, We need to understand that without a strong ANCWL, it would be difficult to drive organisational renewal within the ANC. As national office and provincial Chairpersons, we`ve initiated discussions in this regard - to strengthen the WL.
We need to find creative ways of driving home the message that parents should prioritise education. Education has always been central to the struggles of women in our country. We need to support the call to make education a societal issue. With an educated citizenry we can end poverty. Our country stands to benefit from educating and empowering women. We welcome the decision on the part of President Jacob Zuma to join nine other Heads of State as a champion of the United Nations Education First initiative. It is intended to advocate for greater commitment of the world to quality in education.
We must keep on the transformation agenda the proposals of the May 2012 ANCWL Policy Workshop. We must prioritise the proposed Women`s Summit on morality and values, such as the dignity of teaching and the conduct of our teachers. This Provincial Conference is very strategic coming up less than three months before Mangaung.
I think questions you must answer should include the following:
Leadership, why it matters Comrades, we`re posing these questions precisely because this has got to be a strategic moment for serious reflection and introspection. From this Conference we expect resolutions commensurate with challenges facing women and society. We must not act like demagogues and opportunists who fail to resist the temptation "to ignore the real situation," who "play about with imaginary forces, concepts and ideals," who are blind to the failure these tendencies invite (Strategy and Tactics, 1969). Mangaung creates a platform for us to review and renew the mandate of loyal cadres that history charges us once more to deploy further to advance the National Democratic Revolution. We shall not try to leap-frog the transformation process. Assuming state power has strengthened our resolve sharply to pursue the strategic objective of the NDR, which is to create a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society. As we`ve said in Strategy and Tactics (1997), this means the liberation of our people from political and economic bondage, the majority of whom are African and women.
To conclude then, it should be easy for us to identify and root out the "bitter root" that grows up from time to time "to cause trouble" and "to defile many." As we said at Morogoro: "The revolutionary-sounding phrase does not always reflect revolutionary policy, and revolutionary-sounding policy is not always the springboard for revolutionary advance. "Indeed what appears to be ‘militant` and ‘revolutionary` can often be counter-revolutionary" (Strategy and Tactics, 1969). On behalf of the National Executive Committee and loyal members of our League, I wish you all a dynamic and memorable Conference. Wathint`abafazi! Wathint`imbokodo!