PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma on Tuesday urged the private sector‚ especially banks‚ to come to the party and provide loans to women‚ especially women in rural areas‚ as part of promoting the economic development and growth envisaged in the National Development Plan.
He was speaking at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the historic march by more than 20‚000 women to the seat of government to register their rejection of white supremacy and institutionalised racism.
Zuma noted that there had been significant change‚ especially at the political level‚ in employment‚ education‚ ownership of homes and businesses‚ the justice system‚ and economic participation, particularly in areas such as legal status‚ attitudes‚ women’s involvement in decision-making.
He acknowledged however that in some areas the change appeared to be rather slow‚ hence the need to upscale efforts.
The government was investing in education more than before‚ so that it could use this instrument to improve the lives of women. The education of women and girls was an apex priority‚ he said.
The participation of women in the economy was also critical‚ he said‚ adding that the establishment of women co-operatives and small businesses was being prioritised by government including providing support to women traders so that they could earn an income.
One of the key instruments that government was employing to support women to start their businesses and co-operatives was development finance institutions.
“We urge the private sector‚ especially banks‚ to come to the party and provide loans to women‚ especially women in rural areas‚ as part of promoting the economic development and growth envisaged in the National Development Plan.
“Therefore today‚ we set a new commitment to promote financial inclusion for all‚ especially for women and young people.
“We invite the private sector to work with us all the way towards this goal‚” Zuma said.
He acknowledged that many women still lived in difficult conditions. Some communities were still waiting for water‚ electricity‚ sanitation and housing.
“Women are still struggling as they travel long distances to fetch water. It is for this reason that work is continuing to improve the lives of our people each day.
“Government will not rest until decent basic services reach all our people‚” he said.
“We know too‚ that women are troubled by unemployment. Work continues to improve the economic situation in the country through working together by business‚ government and labour.
“The economic situation is difficult for us and the world at large. But we will continue our efforts to improve the situation and create an environment in which the private sector can create jobs‚” said Zuma.
On Tuesday the Women’s Living Heritage Monument at Lillian Ngoyi Square was unveiled which Zuma said was “a symbol of the bravery and patriotism of South African women‚ and a monument to their contribution to the liberation and democracy that we achieved. Their march was not in vain”.
The president paid tribute to the many brave women who took part in the historic 1956 march as well as women who had in contributed in various ways to the freedom the country enjoyed today.
He also paid tribute to struggle stalwarts like Winnie Madikizela-Mandela‚ Dorothy Nyembe‚ Albertina Sisulu‚ Ruth Mompati‚ Ruth First‚ Bertha Gxowa “and many others”.
“We also pay tribute to women before 1956 who gave their lives to the liberation movement‚ often at a great personal cost‚ without any expectation of position or reward‚ such as our pioneer Charlotte Maxeke‚” Zuma said.
“We also recognise women who have contributed to building this country — the factory workers‚ domestic workers‚ farm workers‚ those who work on our roads and every other sphere.
“It is because of their heroic achievements that today government continues to work at improving the living conditions of households including those headed by women.”