Cyril Ramaphosa

Marking Women’s Day on Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said broadening women’s economic participation and ensuring their financial independence could be crucial in combating the scourge of femicide against them.

Addressing this year’s event virtually, Ramaphosa said poverty made women vulnerable to gender violence. “One of the most important ways to reduce the vulnerability of women to gender-based violence is to enable them to become financially independent,” he said.

Ramaphosa said that to tackle gender-based violence and femicide, the government would prioritize providing business opportunities to women-led firms.

“The first action is to expand the access of women to economic opportunity,” he said, “We will do this, among other things, by setting aside 40 percent of public procurement for women-owned businesses.”

He said this process would be monitored where clear plans to increase women’s participation in the economy are increased.

As the Chair of the African Union, Ramaphosa said other governments across the African continent must implement the same plans to empower women economically. “We will also be working on policy guidelines to help member states, on our continent, develop similar interventions,” he said.

He said that lack of access to capital was one of the factors that hindered women’s economic growth. “The second action is to support women who operate small or micro businesses, including in the informal sector. Under generation equality, we will be supporting AU member states in their drive to adopt digital IDs,” he said.

Women’s Day is marked to commemorate the Aug. 9, 1956 march of approximately 20,000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the country’s pass laws.

At that time, the apartheid government was introducing pass laws against black women meaning that women would be forced to carry permits and passes.

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