Opening up economic opportunities for women and addressing the scale of gendered poverty was an area that required far greater attention to mitigate the economic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic and to rebuild the economy, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Thursday.
“We must support women’s economic empowerment through preferential procurement, funding to women-owned small, medium and micro enterprises and speeding up women’s access to land,” he said during his address at the handover of the emergency response action plan and the national strategic plan to combat gender-based violence and femicide.
Ramaphosa said three milestones in the country’s struggle against the scourge were being marked on Thursday:
- the completion of the work of the Interim Steering Committee on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide that was set up in the wake of last year’s Presidential Summit,
- the handing over of the six-month progress report of the emergency response action plan, and
- the releasing of the national strategic plan on gender-based violence.
The National Strategic Plan was the government and civil society’s multi-sectoral strategic framework to realise a South Africa free from gender-based violence and femicide, Ramaphosa said.
“We will galvanise support for this plan by creating a permanent structure to steer its implementation and budgeting for it over the medium-term expenditure framework period.”
South Africa was one of the most unsafe places in the world to be a woman, Ramaphosa said.
“The protests that took place last year in response to a series of high-profile rapes and murders of women and girls, were a clarion call from the women’s movement and all of society for more to be done to combat this scourge.
“They were cries of frustration and anger that despite our progressive laws, we failed to protect women and girls from abuse, ill-treatment and femicide. It was clear at the time that a coherent and measurable strategy to deal with this growing problem was sorely needed,” he added.
The committee comprised, among others, government and civil society representatives, researchers and scientists.
“Guided by the Presidential Summit, the committee went beyond identifying interventions to address gender-based violence and femicide to consider the wider challenges women and children face with regards to safety and security, poverty and access to economic opportunities.
“They also looked at the contestation around the rights of women and children in a climate where patriarchy and chauvinism is widely prevalent,” said Ramaphosa.
Emergency response action plan
The emergency response action plan, established to deal with rising gender-based violence cases in the middle of last year, focused on broadening access to justice for survivors, changing social norms and behaviour, strengthening existing architecture and promoting accountability, and the creation of more economic opportunities for women.
Around R1.6 billion were sourced through budget reprioritization, he added.
This went to toward mass media campaigns, redirecting resources to sexual offences courts, and awareness drives, among others.
“With regards to response, care and support for survivors of gender-based violence, the number of Thuthuzela Care Centres are being increased, and access to legal aid is being broadened.
“A number of government buildings have been handed over to the Department of Social Development to be used as additional shelters.”
The greatest achievement of the Emergency Response Action Plan was it fundamentally changed how departments involved in the gender sector interacted and collaborated, Ramaphosa said.
“It enabled government processes that ordinarily are fraught with red tape to be fast-tracked. It inculcated a smarter approach to using and managing resources because government departments had to stretch their apportioned budgets to meet ambitious targets.
“From the outset, it was clear that this would be a short-term plan to be implemented over six months. We have reached the end of that term, and the consolidated report being presented today covers the six months.”
He said the emergency plan “helped to set up a delivery mechanism for a longer-term set of interventions”, and the work would now be taken over by the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Council to oversee the implementation of the National Strategic Plan.