South Africa’s progress towards gender quality – celebrating progress, highlighting challenges

19 June 2015 | UN Activities

Pretoria – “Progress for women equals sustained progress for all,” declared Dr Auxilia Ponga, Representative of UN Women South Africa Multi-Country Office, at an event held at the European Union (EU) Residence in Pretoria.

Dr Ponga from UN Women speaking at the event. (Photo credit: EU Delegation to South Africa)

Dr Ponga from UN Women speaking at the event. (Photo credit: EU Delegation to South Africa)

At the event, co-hosted by UN Women, Gender Links and South African Women in Dialogue, highlights from two key important reports were presented. A lively and interactive panel discussion followed which considered the implications of the reports’ findings for South Africa. In the audience were representatives of the diplomatic community, development partners and civil society organisations, including His Excellency Mr Anders Hagelberg, Ambassador, Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria.

Following opening remarks from the Deputy Head of the EU Delegation, Ms Sofia Moreira de Sousa, Dr Ponga presented key findings of UN Women’s recently launched flagship report “Progress of the World’s Women 2015-16”. With the theme “Transforming Economies, Realizing Rights”, the report proposes a comprehensive agenda to make human rights a lived reality for all women and girls.

“UN Women’s vision is of an alternative economic agenda that transforms workplaces, makes social policy work for women and creates an enabling macroeconomic environment in which everyone – both men and women – can thrive,” said Dr Ponga.

The report sets out ten priorities for public action, designed to create decent work, implement gender-responsive social policies and adopt a rights-based macroeconomic policy framework. Read the report here – http://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/progress-of-the-worlds-women

Dr Ponga’s presentation provided important global and regional context for the presentation by Gender Links of the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer for South Africa 2015 Report. Presented by Colleen Lowe Morna, CEO of Gender Links, and her colleague Ms Nomthandazo Mankazana, the report highlighted the progress South Africa has made in eliminating discrimination against women, but also flags a number of important challenges that remain. In particular the prevalence of gender-based violence was highlighted as a critical area of concern, with more than one in three women reporting experiencing some form of it.

Themba Kalua of UN Women moderated a panel discussion to discuss implications of both reports (Photo credit: EU Delegation to South Africa)

Themba Kalua of UN Women moderated a panel discussion to discuss implications of both reports (Photo credit: EU Delegation to South Africa)

In her remarks, Ms Morna argued that there is a significant opportunity to begin to address the prevalence of gender-based violence in South Africa, highlighting the progress the country has made in relation to addressing other significant social issues such as spread of HIV/AIDS. Ms Morna cited the reduction of both the overall HIV infection rate and deaths caused by HIV and AIDS as proof of what can be achieved with the appropriate level of focus, resourcing and political will.

The presentations of the reports were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Themba Kalua of UN Women, which engaged panel members and members of the audience on what action can be taken to accelerate progress towards a South Africa where gender equality is a reality. Panelists included Martha Muller (South African Women in Dialogue – SAWID), Pregs Govender (SA Human Rights Commission) and Mfanezwelo Shozi (Commission for Gender Equality).

All speakers were provided the opportunity to make concluding remarks and Dr Ponga used hers as an opportunity to challenge audience members to make a contribution towards achieving gender equality at an individual household level. Noting that women’s heavy responsibilities for unpaid care and domestic work can limit the types of work they can undertake, audience members were asked to ensure in their own households both men and women shared these responsibilities.

“There is a persistent devaluation of “women’s work”. This will change when unpaid care and domestic work is no longer seen as the domain of women. Men and women both need to do their share. Remember progress for women is progress for all,” Dr Ponga asserted.

 

Photo caption – Dr Ponga from UN Women speaking at the event. (Photo credit: EU Delegation to South Africa)

Photo caption – Themba Kalua of UN Women moderated a panel discussion to discuss implications of both reports (Photo credit: EU Delegation to South Africa)