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South Africa must deliver on women’s rights, says president

Just talking about women's rights is not enough, South African President Jacob Zuma has said, highlighting out how far the country needs to go to make good its goals for equality.

"The laws in our statute books are not enough,” said the leader, speaking at National Women's Day celebrations yesterday.

They will become truly meaningful when they create a tangible improvement in the lives of women.

He said that the governing party, the African National Congress is focused on socio-economic rights because making women equal women is closely linked with the fight to wipe out poverty and to improve access to basic services.

"For scores of poor women, emancipation means access to electricity, water, decent shelter, access to income generating activities or decent jobs, roads and transport, education and training for themselves and their children," South Africa Press Agency quoted him as saying.

The department of labour’s 10th Commission on Employment Equity report published last month, showed how slow transformation in the workplace was happening, Mr Zuma noted. More than a decade after the country brought in its Employment Equity Act, white men still take up 63 per cent of top management positions in the private sector, the report revealed. African women were at less than three per cent and black and Indian women were one per cent each.

"While welcoming the progress made in the public sector, our analysis of various studies available indicates that if we continue at the current pace of transformation, it will take the country almost 40 years to attain 50-50 gender parity,” Mr Zuma said.

"Therefore, measures have to be taken to hasten the process of gender and racial transformation in our country. Some urgent action is required in the private sector to improve gender and race diversity at the top management level," Mr Zuma said.

He praised the women leaders who had led the struggle for a free, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa saying: "We acknowledge the courageous generation of Winnie Mandela and Albertina Sisulu and others who soldiered on at great personal cost, during the worst periods of our lives," he said.

But Winnie Mandela criticised his African National Congress party for not making its own policies work, especially those that affect women. She told the City Press newspaper on Sunday that after 16 years in power, “it is time for the ANC to go back to the drawing-board and to assess how it will realistically implement policies.

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