As part of government’s commitment to gender equality, 40 percent of public procurement will be set aside for women-owned businesses, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday.
Paying tribute to South Africa’s women on Women’s Day, he said South Africa as a country had much to be proud of. Gains had been made in advancing women’s rights, broadening women’s access to education, in the provision of health care and social support to women, and in improving their participation in the economy and decision-making.
At the same time, the lived reality for millions of South African women was very different to the promise contained in the Constitution. As Women’s Day was marked this year, South Africa was in the grip of two pandemics – the coronavirus (Covid-19) and gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide. Ever more women and children were being abused and losing their lives at the hands of men.
“It cannot be that this Women’s Day is drenched in the tears of families who have lost their sisters, daughters and mothers to violence perpetrated by men. This cannot continue. We can no longer as a nation ignore the deafening cries of women and children for protection, for help and for justice,” Ramaphosa said.
“Today we commit to a new social compact with the women of this country informed by our collective commitment to gender equality. This will be driven by bold actions. The first action is to expand the access of women to economic opportunity. We will do this, among other things, by setting aside 40 percent of public procurement for women-owned businesses.
“We now expect national departments to monitor and report on how many women have participated in each public procurement process. They will have to develop clear plans on how they will broaden women’s participation over the next 12 months,” he said.
As chair of the African Union (AU), South Africa would also work on policy guidelines to help member states on the continent to develop similar interventions.
Secondly, steps would be taken to support women operating small or micro businesses, including in the informal sector. Lack of access to financial services and digital identification limited their ability to conduct business. “We will engage the financial sector to strengthen efforts to make financial services accessible and affordable for women in South Africa,” he said.
“The third action is to speed up the process of giving women access to productive assets such as land. We will ensure that our own land reform process favours all historically disadvantaged people – including women – in getting land and the means to farm it. Of the R75 million in Covid-19 relief earmarked for farming input vouchers, 53 percent of the beneficiaries will be rural women.
“We must ensure that women subsistence and small-scale farmers continue to receive support beyond the lockdown. At the same time, we will be calling on AU member states to put policies in place to increase women’s ownership of land to 30 percent,” Ramaphosa said.
“Our fourth action is to ensure that women are safe from gender-based violence in the workplace … we will work at a national and regional levels towards the ratification of the [International Labour Organisation] ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in the Workplace.”
The urgency of achieving gender equality had never been greater than now. The coronavirus had left no one untouched. But it was those who already faced economic insecurity, poverty, discrimination, and exclusion who had been hardest hit. In the second round of food relief, the Solidarity Fund would distribute this month in the form of vouchers, some 40 to 50 percent of the target beneficiaries would be women, Ramaphosa said.