Empowered, inspired and developed women and youth are critical to South Africa’s global competitiveness.
Since 1994, South Africa has made significant progress by putting in place legislation and policy frameworks for advancing the equality and empowerment of women, children and people with disabilities.
The South African Parliament adopted without reservation the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
Parliament further passed the Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill, which strongly called for equal participation of women in the economy and for equal representation of women in decision-making structures, in both the private and public sectors.
More than ever, we need to increase our efforts to ensure we continue to strive towards true equality. One such way is through the National Development Plan, which promotes gender equality and greater opportunities for young people.
Empowered, inspired and developed women and youth are critical to South Africa’s global competitiveness. In efforts to assist in the emancipation of women, the government has established a Ministry of Women aimed at encouraging and providing opportunities for women to participate in the economy.
In the words of the late Nelson Mandela, whose centenary we celebrate this year: “If we want to build the better life for all of which we so often speak and dream, we will have to ensure that we have a highly educated and skilled population.”
The development of women
SANRAL’s skills development programmes last year benefited 4257 people, 1690 of whom were women. Above that, SANRAL is focused on developing female engineers, as well providing skills development and education for the women within the organisation.
The South African Network for Women in Transport has been established. The concept was born of a need to break existing barriers of entry into the sector.
This umbrella body was established as a strategic vehicle to engage business and the government on issues that impact women in the transport sector, including entrepreneurship.
This was an important milestone. It gave women a voice in this important industry. When we talk about emancipation and equality, we also must address the question of participation of black people in the economy.
Our economy is characterised by vast racial and gender inequalities in the distribution of and access to productive assets, wealth, income, skills and employment. Education is a key equaliser.
This, however, must be juxtaposed with economic participation. Little progress has been made in achieving greater operational participation and control in the economy by Africans.
One way we can contribute in this regard is by transforming our SOEs, with a view to their becoming the key instruments of the developmental state.
All these efforts are aligned with the ideals of Nelson Mandela, who said: “The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation. Our previous system emphasised the physical and other differences of South Africans, with devastating effects. We are steadily but surely introducing education that enables our children to exploit their similarities and common goals, while appreciating the strength in their diversity.”
We must do this so that we do not limit our ability to expand the productive base, sustain economic development, eradicate poverty and contribute to a better life for all. Effectively, the black majority had been excluded from economic ownership and control, fundamentally undermining their ability to accumulate capital.
Research is vital
Research remains the key to solving current challenges and mitigating future ones. The appointment of Keith Nare, a PhD candidate at Nelson Mandela University, as Research Associate at SANRAL’s materials lab in Port Elizabeth bodes well.
More researchers must come onboard and help the country move forward. We must laud SANRAL for its commitment to investment in training and education, as well as in identifying and nurturing the skills of the next generation of engineers and scientists through its bursaries and scholarships.
This is reflected by the 133 students it is funding at institutions of higher education and training throughout the country.
This is an opinion piece by Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Transport.