UN Women South Africa Multi-Country Office’s International Women’s Day Programme started a day early, on February 7th.In partnership with UNFPA, The Swedish Embassy and the Commission for Gender Equality, UN Women SAMCO hosted a panel discussion entitled: “The Elimination of Violence Against Women in South Africa: Moving the Agenda Forward”.
Attended by 60 guests including diplomats, gender equality activists and development agencies, the event was held at the Swedish Ambassador’s Residence and centred on a panel featuring Director General of the Department of Women, Jenny Schreiner, as well as Deputy Director at the Department of Social Development Ms Connie Nxumalo; UN Women SAMCO Representative Anne Githuku-Shongwe; UNFPA South Africa Representative Dr Esther Muia, CGE CEO Keketso Maema and People Opposing Women Abuse Board Member Sakina Mohammed. The day began with a welcome by H.E. the Ambassador of Sweden Mr. Anders Hagelberg, during which Mr Hagelberg stressed that feminism and being a feminist government are priorities for the Swedish Government. This was followed by the keynote address by Dr. Thabo Rapoo, Research HOD at the Commission for Gender Equality, after which the panel began. The panel was followed by questions from the audience as well as group work on the tables to determine the key actions needed for the way forward.
On Tuesday, March 8th, UN Women Representative Anne Githuku-Shongwe attended the Ring the Bell event at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. The welcome address was delivered by Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, Chairman of the JSE, who pointed out that 52% of the JSE’s employees are women, while 7 of the 10 executive roles within the JSE are women. She continued: “But this is no reason to stand still. We continue to challenge ourselves and our listed firms. You may be aware that last year we introduced a new listing requirement, which is that listed firms disclose their gender policies.” Ms Nyembezi-Heita then introduced the morning’s keynote speaker: South Africa’s Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, “a woman who has visited each of our living rooms so often that when we see her we think we know her… She, more than most on our country, has taken to hear the ideal of accountability.”
In her speech Advocate Madonsela honoured the achievements of Charlotte Maxeke and Olive Schreiner. “As you know Charlotte Maxeke was the first African woman in South Africa to get a degree… But her message wasn’t just about women’s equality. Her message was that when we liberate women and children, men and society as a whole benefit. That is true today and it was true then.”
In South Africa the stock exchange is opened with the sounding of african instruments including marimba and kudu horn. Adv Madonsela and Ms Nyembezi-Heita were joined on stage for the opening by Ms Githuku-Shongwe and the MC for the day, Zeona Jacobs, Director of Corporate and Marketing Affairs for the JSE. The four women sounded the instruments, joined by two musicians. Simultaneously, in honour of the global campaign and other stock exchanges, the close to 200 audience rang small silver bells. Later, Advocate Madonsela was joined by Ms Shongwe, as well as Dr Mantsika Matooane, Non-Executive Director Of The JSE; Ms Kgomotso Tshaka, Executive of Sustainability, Wesizwe Platinum Ltd; and Nerina Visser, an Independent ETF Strategist and Advisor, on a panel chaired by Joanne Yawitsch, CEO of the National Business Initiative.
At the same time, on the other side of Johannesburg, Barclays Africa was hosting a breakfast and panel discussion in honour of IWD. The panel was introduced by Senior eNews Channel Africa News Anchor Iman Rapetti, and included Mizinga Melu, Chief Executive Officer; Lele Modise, General Counsel, Corporate Investment Banking; Yasmin Masithela, Head of Compliance; Sam Wilkins, Chief of Staff from the Barclays Africa Group, as well as Themba Kalua, Deputy Representative, UN Women SAMCO. The panelists discussed their personal stories and debated practical, innovative interventions to benefit their communities, their families, their children and themselves. The event was attended by just under 100 guests who were treated to a performance by the Buskaid string ensemble.
The breakfasts, which are regularly held at Barclay’s in alignment with UN Women campaigns or days, are an opportunity for senior management to interact with staff and share their stories, with a view to establishing mentor relationships between management and junior staff, especially women.
Back at the JSE, Advocate Madonsela was asked during the panel what she would say to her sixteen-year-old-self. Madonsela replied, “What I would say to her is that tomorrow is definitely going to better than today. The opportunities you will have will be incredible.”