Premier of the Free State Province, Ms Sisi Ntombela,
Minister of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, Ms Thoko Didiza,
Members of the Free State Executive Council,
Director-General, Mr Kopung Ralikontsane and other Senior Officials,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The role of women in society
We thank you Premier Ntombela for the invitation to us to join the people of the Free State province on this launch of the provincial women’s month. This month gives us an opportunity to honestly reflect on progress we have made in the struggle for the total emancipation of women, and deepening gender equality.
It also allows us to envision and shape new solutions to resolve social challenges confronting society, and women in particular, so that we ensure gender equality is achieved.
We take pride in being part of this dialogue, which is meant to create an opportunity of sharing insights, ideas, and experiences on the issues that are critical for the development of our society, especially women.
We also take time to celebrate the leadership contribution of women in the struggle for liberation to build a democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.
It was during this month 66 years ago, at the height of apartheid rule, when the powerful voices of 20 000 women reverberated through the streets of Pretoria marching in defiance against a brutal regime that sought to use discriminatory pass laws to undermine their dignity.
Their efforts took our country a step further towards building an equal society. Their chant “Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo” symbolised the courage, strength, and resilience of these brave women in the fight for freedom and the emancipation of all women.
Because of their bravery, we have moved from a history where women suffered oppression based on their gender to one where gender equality is a constitutional imperative.
Today women enjoy the same rights as their male counterparts. We shall always be indebted to them and remain inspired in the fight to make our nation better.
It is now in the hands of women of our generation to carry their legacy and strive to overcome our challenges. That is why we condemn in strongest terms, any acts of violence and abuse against women.
The freedoms we attained in 1994, are for every South African irrespective of race, gender and ethnicity. It is unacceptable that one in five women have experienced violence at the hands of their partners, and that women are raped and killed at the hands of men.
We are saddened by the recently reported acts of rape and criminality perpetrated against women and young girls in many parts of our country. Gender-based violence has no place in our society.
As communities, we should stand and work together to get rid of this moral decay in our society.
We celebrate every woman who has had to grab the sharpest end of the knife to make sacrifices, endure hardships, raise children, and make a contribution to the development of our society.
Without doubt, women have always been the backbone of our society.
A Dialogue for solutions
For any society to thrive, it must empower women across all facets of development, and ensure that women and girl children have access to quality education, health and economic opportunities for self-advancement.
We are delighted that our dialogue today will centre around how we create an enabling environment for the meaningful participation of women in agriculture to contribute to economic growth, employment and food security.
It behoves us to address artificial barriers that engender the exclusion of women from the agricultural sector across the entire value chain.
We must enhance our practical measures and interventions to provide holistic support to women farmers in order increase agricultural production and impact on economic growth, food security and employment.
Our integrated support to women in this sector must unlock land availability, mechanisation support, funding, training, access to markets and the introduction of new technologies for modern farming.
As government, we will continue to make resources available to support women farmers.
We must therefore invest more in providing training, research and technological innovation to support those wanting to enter the agricultural sector.
We must encourage young people to enrol in agriculture colleges and universities to acquire necessary skills. We must do more to support black women farmers and young girls in order to capacitate them to unleash their potential.
We are aware that access to funding poses a major challenge. For those women looking to start a business in the agricultural sector, it is even more of a challenge, with many struggling to gain access to financial assistance to start their enterprises because they often have no assets to put up as necessary surety.
We need to ensure that we work with the private sector to develop, and make available innovative financing instruments to support farmers. In this dialogue, government will be able to share some of the funding opportunities available to support women farmers.
In terms of key infrastructure required for successful agriculture, government will continue to assist with the provision of bulk water and irrigation infrastructure, as well as logistics and storage infrastructure.
Accelerating Land Reform to Benefit Women
As we celebrate this women’s month, we must also be cognisant of challenges such as food insecurity. The main threat to food security are increasing food prices, increasing demand for food, and limitations of farming land availability.
Access to land for current and prospective women farmers remains one of the key priorities of government’s land reform programme. Government has introduced proactive measures to ensure that beneficiary selection criteria focus on enhancing women ownership of land
When women own the land, they make it productive; families tend to be better fed, better educated, and healthier.
We have already commenced with the allocation of state owned land to beneficiaries in need of agricultural land. Through our Land Reform Programme, we are re-allocating the land to the landless, labour tenants, farm workers, and emerging farmers for productive uses to improve their livelihoods and quality of life.
As government, we will continue to collaborate across the three spheres to coordinate our support better, and ensure that all post-settlement programmes are well coordinated, integrated and effective.
We do this because we know that the productive utilisation of land in communal areas is key to effective rural development. In the main, agriculture sustains economic activities and livelihoods in rural communities. We must find ways to support agricultural enterprises to drive the agenda of rural development
It is for this reason that we must have dialogues such as this, in order to chart a way forward on how we can increase agricultural productivity by broadening the participation of more women in farming.
We must all come together and follow the example of African Farmers Association of South Africa to accelerate agrarian reform and to bring the marginalised poor into the economic mainstream.
While guaranteeing the long-term viability of the agricultural sector in South Africa, AFASA has achieved noteworthy strides in commercializing the nation’s emerging agricultural sector and facilitating the meaningful engagement of black people in mainstream commercial agribusiness.
We need to develop strategies on how we can ensure a better legal framework that will ensure access and equity in the distribution of land for farming.
On our part as government, we will continue to accelerate land reform to drive socio-economic transformation and redress past imbalances in land ownership.
By working together, through dialogue and collaboration, we will be able to transform this sector and our communities for the better.
As we grow agriculture and promote rural development, we have enjoined partnerships with traditional leaders to find ways of investing in rural infrastructure and service delivery. We will work with traditional leaders to ensure that women farmers are adequately supported.
We promise that, as part of the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Traditional Leadership, we will visit the Province again to engage with traditional leaders on various matters of concern.
Integrated Support to Small Scale Farmers and Cooperatives
To address the challenges of hunger, unemployment, poverty and inequality, we need to support small scale farms, particularly women-owned farms.
There is much evidence in the economic literature that small-scale farms play a crucial role in the functioning of any economy as creators of jobs.
Our nation’s history is full of instances when the support given to white-owned small businesses by the previous administration helped a number of businesses grow into well-known enterprises. In the same category, we have agricultural cooperatives that have developed into well-known companies both domestically and abroad.
This indicates that the people are not simply disinterested in improving their lot in life and raising themselves up by their own bootstraps. Instead, it indicates that they require assistance in order to give life to their ideas and so contribute to the growth of our economy and the creation of jobs for the unemployed.
We need young women farmers to receive necessary training and support to become commercial farmers. It is possible. It can be done.
When more women use available land productively, our country produces more for both domestic and international export markets. Government has programmes to support farmers with the necessary production capacity to supply external markets. We will continue to open channels for local farmers to supply international markets
Equally, our domestic market has opportunities for increased participation by all farmers, and women farmers in particular.
Unlocking economic opportunities through government nutrition programs in schools, hospitals, and correctional centres is one of the important initiatives to increase the participation of women. This will allow the agriculture sector to expand and support cooperatives and small-scale farming enterprises.
This will motivate these agricultural women to take the lead in producing and supplying the government with fresh produce and related commodities. More prospects for job creation result from the expansion of such support, which gives individuals looking for work hope.
We commend the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development that through conditional Comprehensive Agricultural Support Programme have prioritised women-targeted projects and funded them for the financial year 2022/23.
The handover of agricultural support packages to women farmers today is a hope we need to give to women.
It is a hope that our society needs to prosper.
It is what we all need to do to support and empower women.
Through this programme we are increasing the creation of wealth in the communal and farming communities. We are reducing poverty and hunger.
We are committed to walking this journey with you by ensuring that the work you do is effectively supported.
I thank you.
Source: The Presidency Republic of South Africa