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Women still facing discrimination in SA - Zuma

10 August 2015, 07:58 Jenni Evans, News24

Sasolburg - Working women are still being discriminated against in South Africa, in spite of great strides being made towards equality, President Jacob Zuma said at a Women's Day rally in Sasolburg on Sunday.

"Women appear to be stuck in both middle and junior management," Zuma told around 21 000 women, mostly ANC supporters, gathered at the Harry Gwala multipurpose centre on the fringes of the fuel-producing town.

Zuma, who received the first "Report on the Status of Women in South Africa" from the Office of Women in the Presidency , said that according to research, remnants of unfair discrimination still persist in every area of the country, especially in the labour market.

"Women are discriminated against if they are pregnant or married," said Zuma, adding that this was more prevalent in the private sector.

Women were paid unequally and experienced sexual harassment in the work place, which hinders their progress.

"These women are entitled to respect," he said.

He said women had kept up resistance to the hated laws governing the carrying of a "passbook" but to this day, black women in particular suffered from the legacy of apartheid.

Zuma said including women in the economy did not mean they should be relegated to micro enterprises or informal businesses.

He acknowledged more women were in senior positions than ever before, but it was not enough. More women should be serving on boards where a country's direction is decided.

Since the advent of democracy in 1994, progress has been made regarding the status of women, he said.

"Attitudes are changing, women are more involved in decision making, many laws that affect women have been changed, and women are encouraged to participate in the economy," Zuma said. 

The country had advanced from having a National Assembly (NA) comprising 2.7% women before 1994, to the current 41% female representation in Parliament.

Speaker Baleka Mbete and chairperson of the National Council of Provinces Thandi Modise illustrated how women are leading the country, said Zuma of the women often criticised for protecting him during question time in Parliament.

According to statistics he received, in Cabinet, 43% of members are women, and 45.9% are deputy ministers.

At local government level, 38.4% of councillors are women, following the 2011 local government elections.  

Women constitute 33% of judges in South Africa at present, compared with two white female judges in 1994.

"Now in democracy there are 61 women judges, of which 48 are black women," he said.

In the senior management of the public service, 40% are women, as opposed to only 21% of top executive positions in the private sector being held by women and 32% in senior management positions, he said. 

Zuma said poverty and unemployment still hangs over the country, but the spread of HIV/Aids is being reversed.

He said the march to freedom for women would continue, and ended his address with "Happy Women's Day".

As his entourage prepared to leave, long queues snaked along the field, of women waiting to receive a food parcel, while other headed for their buses back home, stopping to browse at the ANC-branched merchandise, occasionally muttering darkly about some of the prices which their budgets did not stretch to.

The "Report on the Status of Women in South Africa" is available on www.women.gov.za.

- News24


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