The Progressive Business Forum (PBF), the business leg of the ANC, hosted their Annual Women’s Month event at The Venue Green Park, Sandton, on 31 August 2021 to engage on matters that support, celebrate, salute and honour the critical role of women in South Africa.
The month of August sees the annual celebration of the Progressive Women in Business Luncheon, wherein women leaders in the public and private sector across industry interact on matters of pivotal importance to women in our country.
Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the Mail & Guardian Athandiwe Saba acted as host of the event and introduced the invited speakers.
The keynote address was presented by Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC, Jesse Duarte. She shared a poem she had written: Women of South Africa, we see you.
Duarte said we need a better support system for women, and women who are victims of gender-based violence (GBV). The economic emancipation of women is inherently linked to the fight against patriarchy and GBV.
“We [women] are the majority of citizens but we behave as a minority because we keep asking for permission. We must not ask for equality but demand it and make it happen. When you ask for equality, you are admitting that you are unequal.
“If PBF is sincere about the emancipation of women then the demands of the economy must be for the emancipation of women … I am ready for dialogue so that you do not undermine your productive workforce. You promote it and make it skilled enough to carry forward what you need it to do.”
Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, General Manager of the ANC, highlighted the country’s commitment to gender equality marked by the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Conference and Platform for Action.
In March 2021, the World Economic Forum published the Gender Gap Index, which measured four broad areas of advancement for gender equality across countries. Potgieter-Gqubule said the report noted it will take approximately 132 years at our current pace of change to achieve full gender equality in South Africa.
South Africa ranks 80 in political representation of women. However, it places 42 and 45 in closing the educational and poverty gap, respectively. Potgieter-Gqubule reinforced the need for the figures to be disaggregated within the historical and present context of the country to adequately reflect our country’s progress to addressing inequalities.
As someone who personally shattered the glass ceiling of feminine leadership within the ANC by becoming the first female secretary-general of the ANC Youth League, Potgieter-Gqubule called for a more nuanced look into the numbers of women professionals in leadership positions to understand if women are getting into areas that historically have a glass ceiling, and if they are equally paid for civil work.
“It is necessary for us to not just advocate for the closure of the gender pay gap, but also to disaggregate wages in every sector, which is a big driver of inequality in the country,” said Potgieter-Gqubule.
She maintained that we focus on these issues 365 days of the year, by forming coalitions to drive the economic and educational emancipation of women that the Charlotte Maxeke generation advocated for, and whose shoulders we stand on.
Jacqui O’Sullivan, Communication and Reputation Management Executive of Corporate Affairs at MTN, retold the events of the historic Women’s March of 1956. The year 2021 has been declared the Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke, a civil rights activist who led the defiance campaign against the extension of Pass Laws to women.
O’Sullivan narrated that there are key issues overlooked in the telling of the story, predominantly the number of women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956. She said an additional 30 000 women were left out from the 20 000 women recorded to have been at the seat of the apartheid government, and put the figure at well over 50 000.
She also said that the 1956 march was the second in a series of protests by the women of South Africa. In August 1955, the women of South Africa made the momentous decision to rise up against the apartheid government for the first time and in October 1955, thousands of women marched for the first time to the Union Buildings.
“History underplays the number of women there [in 1956], but the 27 October 1955 march deserves its rightful place in the struggle against apartheid,” said O’Sullivan.
The fight against injustices in the 1990s is inherently linked to our new frontier of struggle for equal rights, dignity, economic liberty, opportunity and freedom from violence.
The telecommunications giant reports that data traffic has more than doubled since the implementation of the lockdown last year. The temporary spectrum enabled data prices to be lowered by more than 30%.
There is an urgent need to release a high-demand spectrum that has the potential to bridge the digital divide by providing fair and equitable access to 5G for all South Africans.
Sipho Mbele, Convenor of PBF, said: “As we continue this journey of ensuring the crucial role of women in our country, we are reminded of the quote by Charlotte Makgomo Maxeke, who said: ‘This work is not for yourselves; kill that spirit of self and do not live above your people, but live with them, and if you can rise, bring someone with you’.”