Statement at the Technology for Women Business Awards Dinner, Sun City – 1999/08/09

9 August 1999, Sun City

Master of Ceremonies
Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka
Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri
Minister Thoko Didiza
Deputy Minister Bridgette Mabandla
Premier Popo Molefe
Women in business,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am honoured to be here in the company of distinguished business women and entrepreneurs as we celebrate the contributions of women in business. We are here tonight both to reward women who have used technology in successful business enterprises and also to celebrate National Women’s Day.

Given the unacceptably high levels of abuse and violence against women, there may be some amongst us who will suggest that there is little reason to celebrate this day and that we should instead only reflect on this violence against women prevalent in our society. Indeed this violence continues to occupy our collective mind, and government is coming up with more practical measures as to what can be done to remedy the situation and to make our cities, our towns, our villages safe places in which our women can live and go about their daily lives in peace and without fear.

I believe that since 1994 we have made tremendous gains towards the full emancipation of the women of our country, both by passing new laws that protect and defend the rights of women and by new policies that address the issue of gender equality in all aspects of South African life.

Both government and civil society have worked together and continue to do so to address the conditions facing women, to create an enabling environment in which our women can prosper.

All departments which are concerned with criminal justice will work together to share information and have a more integrated approach in dealing with crime. One-stop centres for abused women and children are being established.

One of the most important challenges facing our country today, including our women, is how to bring about sustainable economic development.

The complete emancipation of our women through their full participation in the economic life of our country is dependent on us attaining higher rates of economic growth and on how we go about promoting the creation of a larger number of jobs.

The complete emancipation of our women is dependent on skills development and embracing the new technologies of our information age that will fast-track our development, so that we can compete on an equal footing with the rest of the world.

The complete emancipation of our women depends on our encouragement of entrepreneurs and our creating a supportive environment for SMMEs, particularly around the question of the financing of this sector.

Thus, I am pleased that this national initiative of Technology for Women in Business addresses these concerns. The enhancement of the use of technology by women in business, the promotion of innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit, the encouragement of young women in choosing careers in science and technology, and, most importantly, the promotion of co-operation through partnerships between SMMEs, the private sector, parastatals and research bodies, will – I believe – go a long way in bringing about the sustained economic development we speak so much about, and especially for the women of our country.

The fact that this initiative has brought together a number of different departments – Communications, Agriculture, Minerals and Energy, Housing, Public Works – further strengthens our abilities to work towards the economic empowerment of women.

Through this initiative aspiring business women can be informed of opportunities, their rights and obligations, of how and where to obtain start-up capital, of how to promote their businesses and of where to get ongoing training.

It is also to your credit that through this initiative you are also concerned with the formulation of regional policy strategies and the implementation of regional development measures interwoven with the stimulation of economic development at regional and local levels.

The importance of technology in our businesses and our daily lives cannot be under-estimated. The electronic information age with its globalisation of the economy, culture and knowledge is upon us. The question we have to ask ourselves is: are the women of our country and our continent ready for the demands of the 21st Century?

For, when we speak of an African century, we speak of African women both participating in leading and benefitting from this process.

We speak of a century that must be the century for African women to realise their full potential, freed from the shackles of the past.

When we speak of an African century, we speak of sustained economic development, in which women play a crucial part.

When we speak of an African century, we speak of the cultural renaissance of all the people of this continent: a celebration of who we are as Africans, proud of our heritages, but also modernising to address present needs and future demands.

When we speak of an African century, we must speak of our increased productivity as a people, whereby all the people of our country work more efficiently and more effectively, attending both to the maintenance of quality and respecting delivery schedules, while also achieving job satisfaction.

I believe that the women of our country, perhaps more so than others, are aware of how to use the time they have available in fully productive ways and how to get the job done, given limited time frames.

All of the women we are paying tribute to tonight, through these awards, are here, as evidence of their hard work, determination and creativity.

Through their successes, we are bridging the inequalities that exist within our nation as a result of the discriminatory past. We are also confronting the issue of poverty, for through such projects, the poorest of the poor can uplift themselves and prosper.

Through their determination and hard work, we can say with confidence that we are, through them, bringing about the sustainable development of our country, and of the developing world. We are addressing the inequalities that exist between nations, between North and South, between Africa and Europe.

The challenge for all of us here tonight – government, business and civil society – is how to develop strategies for local and regional economic promotion which provides jobs without necessarily compromising the rights that a state gives its citizens and workers, as an integral part of attaining economic growth and a better life for all.

For too long the women of our country have had to walk many hours to fetch water. For too long the women of our country have had to collect firewood and spend hours on household chores – not out of choice – but because of the unavailability of electricity. It is time for these women to enter the 21st Century armed with the technology that will help to advance us all.

When we nurture a new patriotism, we are building a society that treats women with dignity and respect. We are nurturing a new national culture whereby women are acknowledged as equal contributors in our national life and in community cultural development.

When we cultivate a new patriotism, we are saying that women have the right to power.

We are saying that the wealthy must share with the poor, men must share with women, that our patriotism must be based on a national empathy, especially for the poor and the vulnerable, the marginalised members of our society. It is our task to motivate our citizens and activate our nation in working towards this goal.

I believe that this initiative, Technology for Women in Business, is one way of achieving this goal.

My congratulations go out to all the winners. May your projects go from strength to strength.

I thank you.

 

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