Comrades and Friends.
Africa Month is about Celebrating African Unity on the African Continent. Africa Day is celebrated on the 25th May commemorating the founding of the Organisation of African Union in 1963 (renamed as African Union). The African Union comprise of 53 member states who are collectively addressing challenges faced on the African continent, such as armed conflict, climate change, poverty and HIV/AIDS.
Hon. Speaker, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 is considered to be both a Vision and Action plan. It calls upon the African society to collectively build a prosperous and united Africa based on our common values and destiny. The choice of developing a 50 year Agenda has been done within the context of the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the OAU. The long term plan for the Agenda 2063 is aimed at achieving the following;
- Contributing towards global context. There is an opportunity for African countries to make the correct policies in terms of information technology revolution in order to advance a large section of the populations out of poverty, improve on incomes and catalyse economic and social transformation.
- Building further on the NEPAD experience, therefore the NEPAD needs to be implemented at National, regional and Global level. Agenda 2063 is therefore a logical and natural continuation of NEPAD and other initiatives.
- Building a stronger and unified African continent. Africa has finally been established as a global power to be reckoned with and has successfully rallied support around common agenda, and speaking in one voice.
- Ensuring strong and functioning regional institutions. There is firm believe that Agenda 2063 can stand strong. This is based on Africa’s sub regional institutions that have been rationalized on recognizing eight official African Union Economic Communities including (CEN-SAD, COMESA, EAC, ECCAS, IGAD, SADC and UMA).
- Embarking on new development and investment opportunities. Today, Africa is in a position where factors are present that have potential for great opportunities for consolidation and rapid progress. These factors present an opportunity for Africa to capitalize on.
Consensus have been reached on the bases that our unity as Africans largely depend on transparency, placing African citizens first, sound governance, willingness and capability to assess performance and correct our mistakes timely. However, Women around the world and Africa face various challenges and I would like to address some of these challenges related to Gender Equality, HIV/AIDS and Access to Sanitary Towels.
On Gender Equality:
Hon. Members, the Global Gender Gap Index 2015 ranked 145 economies according to their ability to utilise their female talents based on economic, educational, health-based and political indicators. According to the Global Gender Gap Index, in 2006 there were 1.5 billion women participating in the global labour force, this improved in 2015 when they accounted 1.75 billion women participate in the global labour force. In 2006 women earned an annual average of $6 thousand dollars while men earned $11 thousand dollars, these numbers slightly improved in 2015, women around the globe earned approximately $11 thousand while men earned $21 thousand dollars. In 2015 women only equalled the amount men were paid ten years prior.
However, in South Africa there has been a steady improvement towards gender equality. Even in the labour force especially leadership; prior to 1994 women in Parliament presented only 2.7% today and this significantly improved under the leadership of the ANC to 42% of women in Parliament.
According to the AIDS Foundation of South Africa, the Sub-Saharan Africa is the worst affected region in Africa by HIV and AIDS. South Africa is a prominent health concern, South Africa has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS compared to other countries around the world. We have 5.6 million people living with HIV and 270 000 HIV related deaths in 2011. Research has shown that South Africans have high levels of knowledge about how HIV is transmitted and on the preventative methods available. Despite the ANC government ensuring that South Africans has the necessary knowledge and understanding, HIV preventative behaviour has not changed.
Hon. Speaker, the 7th South African Aids Conference that took place in Durban last year, indicated that latest research findings have found that if young girls are offered adequate financial support, guidance from parents and teachers, they would stay away from sugar daddies and subsequently reduce their chances of getting infected. South African young girls between the ages of 15 to 19 years old are up to eight times more likely to be HIV positive than boys of the same age. Poverty and poor parental support are motivating girls into the hands of sugar daddies and increasing their risk to be infected with HIV/AIDS.
Hon Members, the establishment of a new site called Blesser-finder has further popularised the notion of successful rich men meeting young girls and women which are usually from vulnerable groups. There is currently 10 000 members registered on this site and the numbers are increasing daily. An investigation report by Checkpoint which aired on the 10th April 2016 on eNCA, showed the so-called nature of this transactional relationship. These young South African women are drawn into the luxurious life style of cloths, cars, jewellery and others.
Hon. Speaker, in one interview, a young lady spoke to the Mercury and said “This thing has just been given the term “blesser”, but it has been happening for years. I do not feel cheap or shameful, I am just enjoying my life”. Hon. Members, as a women, a mother and leader, I am deeply concerned of this #MoralsMustFall approach to life. While young girls and women are attracted to the lavish lifestyle by these rich men provide, they do not think of the long term implications of their actions. The risk of contracting sexual diseases, HIV/AIDS, loss of morality and self-respect is not worth it. I call upon all African women to not indulge in these practices, the ANC has created opportunities for you to become an educated, successful, and independent women, use the opportunities you have today.
On access to Sanitary Towels.
Hon. Speaker, in South Africa, it is estimated that approximately 7 million girls are absent for four to five days from school each month because of their menstruation. Due to them missing so many school days, they often drop out of school altogether. As women, they are forced to use any means possible when on their periods – rags, old towels, leaves, grass and even school notebook paper. These alternative means has also resulted in some women’s inability to reproduce over time due to these alternative methods to lack of sanitary towels.
The lack of access to sanitary towels of South African girls and young women is not only a story of disadvantaged women, but also a story of the Loss of Education. In the words of our Hon. President Jacob Zuma “Government will provide free sanitary towels to women who cannot afford them.” Hon. Members, as the Portfolio Committee Chair for Social Development, I have started a Sanitary Towel Campaign in efforts to support young girls/women who cannot afford sanitary towels. I have put together a team consisting of young men and women from ANC Caucus and in collaboration with CUT Campus Radio and Moteo FM, to create awareness of lack of access to sanitary towels.
I have challenged members of the Social Development Committee to support this campaign, yes including the opposition parties. We have are all elected members of Parliament and should put Free State citizens before our own political differences. Letters requesting for sponsorship have been send out to all Government Departments as well as the Private Sector in the Free State to sponsor us with sanitary towels. I therefore call upon the MECs and their respective HODs to support our endeavour, requesting for each department to sponsor us with 250 sanitary towels. I request that the MECs and their departments set an example to the private sector and give us their support. Hon. Speaker, instead of providing only one sanitary towel packet, we want to give each girl 12 packets of sanitary towels for an entire year, to ensure that they are not absent from school for one more day due to their menstruation.
Hon. Speaker, as we celebrate African Day let us be thankful of both our success and failures. We are correcting them, addressing our socio-economic challenges through political decisions and policy making processes. South Africa has a lot to be thankful for. We avoided civil conflict which is a pressing issue in many African countries. We have access to houses, electricity, and basic education. Let us embrace our country and continent. We must stand united as South Africans and Africans to develop this continent.