Former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka has called out the South African government for having “sidelined” women’s issues in the country’s economic agenda.
Speaking during a United Nations Women panel discussion on economic empowerment for women yesterday after giving the keynote address, she urged heads of state to take women’s ministries and initiatives more seriously.
“A classical head of state does not think about women and girls as a critical constituency,” she said, describing what she called the disengagement between state leaders and the issues facing women.
Mlambo-Ngcuka said that during her term as deputy president social issues were overruled by the economic cluster’s agenda, leading to government missing growth targets.
But she said the economic cluster’s goals would tend to be compromised “unless you also take into consideration the needs and the context of the social cluster”.
“When I became deputy president, I tried so hard to sit between these clusters – at that time we were trying to chase the 6% growth GDP per annum, which was quite a tall order in terms of where we are today – and I tried to highlight that it’s not going to happen, not unless you take into consideration the needs and the context of the social cluster.
“The economic cluster tends to be the dominant cluster in government and almost treats the social cluster as a burden.”
She added that government’s planning commission currently did show more recognition of women’s rights.
Now a United Nations deputy secretary-general and executive director at UN Women, Mlambo-Ngcuka is spearheading the Southern Africa Consultation on Women’s Economic Empowerment.
This empowerment programme will culminate in a report to UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon in the hope that it will inform policies in United Nations member countries in future.