Ambassador Gaoretelewe participated in the Leadership Summit that took place on 1 October 2019 at the Casino Estoril, on a panel together with the Ambassadors of France, Peru and India. The general theme of the panel discussion was "Are we going together?". You can read the Ambassador's contribution to the discussion below.
Theme: “Are we going together?”
Yes, because TOGETHER as women we are like a rock!
“When you strike a woman, you strike a rock”, these words in song have come to represent the struggle of women in South Africa with the Woman’s March of 1956, when over 20 000 women of all races marched TOGETHER to the Union Buildings to protest against discriminatory pass laws. Since 1995 this march has been celebrated in SA as Women’s Day, bringing TOGETHER women, but more so society as one to recognise the significant role played by women’s activism during the struggle for liberation against colonisation & apartheid and beyond.
Through the symbol of that rock, we TOGETHER salute their resilience, strength and power.
Today, we pay tribute to many generations who have taken up the baton of struggle towards a world that is truly non-sexist and equal. TOGETHER we are blazing a trail - in the workplace and in the boardrooms, in our factories and on our farms, in our Parliament and in our civil society organisations.
South Africa is celebrating 25 years of our democracy this year, and we can say with certainty that TOGETHER we have made a real difference in the lives of our women. The empowerment of women has been placed at the heart of Government’s work. Thus we are proud to have implemented policies and programmes to give practical expression to women’s rights to education, to health care, to basic services and to social support. Therefore, today in South Africa:
- women comprise 58% of all students enrolled at universities and colleges;
- 47% per cent of Members of Parliament (MPs) are women;
- Cabinet has achieved a 50/50 gender parity of Minsters.
In this regard I am also proud to be the fourth female Ambassador to Portugal since 1994. And I am proud to say that the number of Women Ambassadors has been increasing and is now 34. And similarly through AWA we have witnessed an increasing number of Woman Ambassadors in Portugal, currently standing at 24.
Yes, we know more needs to be done. There can be no true liberation unless women are also economically empowered across all levels. Working with partners in business and labour, in communities and across civil society, we are taking measures to build the economy and create economic opportunities, especially for women and youth. But we must do more to skill and train our women especially young women, to becoming entrepreneurs and to start their own businesses. Women entrepreneurs are known to use profits from their business to improve their families' living conditions and lifestyle. More critically they also invest in their children's education which ensures that the cycle of poverty is broken.
Yes, we are doing it TOGETHER, because we know when women are empowered, families thrive, communities are safer and economies grow. It is up to us to ensure that women empowerment becomes a reality. We dare not be happy with the status quo which excludes many women from the social and economic mainstream. By working / going TOGETHER we can ensure a societal shift so that women can take their rightful place in becoming that ROCK, making a significant impact on socio-economic growth and development in our societies.
Ambassador Mmamokwena Gaoretelelwe