Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini
Zuma, at the Launching Conference of the Progressive Women's Movement, Bloemfontein,
5 August 2006
Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka
Honourable Luisa Dias Diogo, Prime Minister of Mozambique
Honourable Joyce Mujuru, Deputy President of Zimbabwe
Comrades and Colleagues:
As we gather
at this historic launch conference of the Progressive Women's Movement, on behalf
of the Steering Committee, may I begin by welcoming all delegates to this event
here in Bloemfontein and give our special and heartfelt greetings to those who
have traveled far to be here. A special welcome to the women who have come from
our neighbouring countries and those who have come across oceans in the spirit
of sisterhood and solidarity.
It is in the spirit of selflessness and sacrifice
that you have traveled here to strengthen our cause, to work towards unity and
to make your voices heard as part of this national effort to intensify the struggle
for women's equality.
The journey that has brought us here today in defense
of the rights of women, is a journey on which women have traveled from the earliest
of times and in all parts of the world.
It is a journey full of milestones
and little victories that together add to the whole battle for women's emancipation
and for gender equality. It is a fight that we are still waging every day, but
we do so strengthened by those who centuries ago began this march for freedom.
we welcome you to this historic conference let us pause and look back where women
have come from. Almost 160 years ago women launched the 1st Women's Rights Convention
in New York.
Across the Atlantic Ocean almost 160 years ago women launched
the first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. It was
here that 300 women and men signed a declaration called the "Declaration
of Rights asserted a belief in equality, the right of women to education and freedom
to enter all jobs and professions.
This meeting was a landmark in the fight
for Women's Rights partly because in coming together, women had reacted to an
earlier gathering in 1840 where women delegates were refused the right to be delegates
at the Antislavery Convention held in London in 1840 because they were women.
Thereafter women in many other countries started the struggle for women's
rights in general, and in particular the right to vote for women was granted in
1893 in New Zealand.
Even in New Zealand women enfranchisement
took many decades to achieve because women had to persuade a male electorate to
grant them the vote. Many Men and some women believed that women were not suited
by circumstance or temperament for the vote. Western political philosophers insisted
that a voter had to be independent, unswayed by appeals from employers, landlords,
or an educated elite. Women by nature were believed to be dependent on men and
subordinate to them. Many thought women could not be trusted to exercise the independence
of thought necessary for choosing political leaders responsibly. It was also believed
that the women's place was in the home, caring for her husband and children. Entry
of women into political life, it was feared, challenged the assignment of women
to the home and might lead to disruption of the family.
In Germany public
attitude towards woman suffrage were hostile. A Prussian law of 1851 forbade women,
along with the mentally ill, school children and apprentices, from joining political
parties or attending meeting at which political subjects were discussed.
the Allied Nations defeated Japan in 1945, Japanese feminists and female staff
officers of the Allied Occupation coorperated in proposing that the new Japanese
constitution should enfranchise women. Interestingly they hoped women would make
the Japanese nation less war-like and that women would raise their children to
believe in peace and democracy.
In some countries women were
still discriminated on the grounds of race. Like in South Africa, only white women
were allowed to vote around 1935, black people only got their vote in 1994.
Since 1994 we have done well in advancing policies, legislation
that contributes towards women's emancipation and access to services, e.g. water,
electrification, health, labour laws, maintenance laws, reproductive rights.
have also done well in the issue of representation in decision making ie in parliament,
in the cabinet, in provinces we have women premiers, MEC's and councillors. In
business women are just beginning to feature. With all these achievement, there
is still a lot more to be done. One young woman asked me, if we are doing well,
why do we need a women's movement and what is a women's movement?
I am sure
the speaker after me will answer this question in detail.
to Peggy Antrobus in her work "the Global Women's Movement", she defines
the women's movement as a "political movement - part of the broad array of
social movements concerned with changing social conditions, rather than part of
a network of women's organizations (although many women's organizations may be
part of a women's movement).
- A women's movement is grounded in an understanding
of women's relations to social conditions - an understanding of gender as an important
relationship within the broad structure of social relationships of class, race
and ethnicity, age and location.
- A women's movement is a process, flexible,
responding to specific conditions of perceived gender inequality etc.
and rejection of patriarchal privilege and control are central to the politics
of women's movements.
- Finally, a definition of a Women's Movement must
include those individual women who would never join an organization, nor define
themselves as feminists, but whose lives and actions nevertheless serve to advance
the liberation of women in their community and beyond.
- In most instances
the "movement' is born at the moments in which individual women become aware
of their separateness as women, their alienation, marginalization, isolation or
even abandonment within a braoder movement for social justice or social change.
In other words, women's struggle for agency within the broader struggle is the
catalyst for women's movements.
are the challenges?
- Women still struggle to acquire land and property
to capital for starting small and medium business enterprises and micro credit
still hinder women's full economic participation
- Access to information
to enable women to make the right choices
- Sharing or distribution of wealth.
gender relations still persist
- Women subordination
- How to involve
young women in the movement.
against women and militarism
- Violation of human rights.
of the environment
- Some of the counter terrorism, wars and conflict seen
today are both racist and patriarchal in nature.
strategies should we employ?
It is important to make alliances with men
if we are to build a strong progressive women's movement for social transformation.
We have to make strategic alliances with those who understand that there is no
justice for anyone if there is no justice for women or those who believe no country
can boast of being free until its women are free.
Author Antrobus further
states that "An increasing number of men are recognizing the ways in which
patriarchy limits our understanding of human possibilities, and the contribution
of feminism to project that seek social justice and a better life for all"
with the state, judiciary, family, religion and corporate world should be nurtured.
- We must have a constructive engagement with all these patriarchal
institutions in order to reform them.
- How do we socialize our
children on values of respect and diversity instead of domination and violence
values based on.
- What interventions to employ against trafficking
of women and children?
- How to deal with the backlash against women's
As we launch this Progressive Women's
Movement, the thoughts and prayers of women of South Africa and indeed of women
of the world reach out to the women and children of Lebanon and Israel and Palestine.We
join hands with women of the world in calling for an immediate ceasefire and an
establishment of the Palestinian state, co-existing peacefully, side by side with
the state of Israel. This launch of the progressive women's movement could not
have come at a better time when the country is observing and celebrating the Women's
month. If it was not for the sacrifices and gallant acts of those women there
would have been no Women's day nor Women's month. They bequeathed to our generation
a better life and better environment for Women's emancipation.
we must ask ourselves is, what are we going to bequeath to future generations,
when we hand over the baton? - will they be proud of us?
I welcome you and
wish you successful deliberations!
Igama lamakhosikazi malibongwe!