Pursuing fair play
UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: Lulu Xingwana has a dream
LATTER day court-jesters have dubbed her the minister of everything but men, but Lulama Xingwana has a serious dream that all South Africans ought to share.
"I want to see a South Africa where poverty's been reduced, where no one goes to bed hungry, where women have skills and we see less abuse and violence against women and children.
"Where women have skills and run big corporations like Anglo-Platinum, Eskom, MTN, Vodacom.
"When that day comes I'll know we've made great strides towards equality."
Xingwana's dream has already started, at least with herself.
She is the proud mother of four adopted children and, besides being highly educated already, is pursuing a master of sciences in development finance with the University of London.
She's quick to say that more is needed to re-engineer South African society against violence against women and children.
"The level of crime against women and children is too high; even when the country seems to be doing well in reducing general crime. But these crimes have risen.
"This is great cause for concern."
She says her mandate is to monitor all government departments and the private sector to ensure there is a focus on projects aimed at developing women, children and people with disabilities.
"We must ensure that everything we do has an impact on that target group."
She is championing the Women's Empowerment and Equality Bill, which aims to enforce gender parity for positions of authority, even in the private sector.
"We must fast-track women empowerment and development."
Xingwana, the second political head of this portfolio has been doing this job since May 2009 and she says her department has already had some important successes.
"We've made women, children and people with disabilities a conversation. "But our greatest achievement so far has been to get Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Jeff Radebe to agree that The Traditional Courts Bill will disenfranchise women.
"Imagine a scenario where your husband is the chief and he abuses his wife, but you must go to the same husband who abused you last night to report him to himself" she says
"Women are saying there must be an opt-out clause in the bill so that under certain circumstances someone can go to court instead of the traditional court."
Xingwana says Radebe agrees that the bill must be rewritten because this "government must demonstrate that it is a caring government".
"On August 25 we will launch a national council against gender-based violence in our effort to curb violence against women and children," she says. "The reduction of gender-based violence is our priority no 1.
"We also need to put a greater emphasis on rural communities to curb the harmful practices against women and children, such as ukuthwala and ukungenwa.
"The Eastern Cape will this month host the Summit for Rural Women so that the government can hear directly from women how they think their problems can be solved," says Xingwana.
She says their economic emancipation must be part of any strategy to deal with gender- based violence "because all these practices are related to poverty".
"Women must be able to sustain, earn a living and support themselves outside of any reliance on men," she says.
Xingwana is adamant that she has found that big catalyst for change in the council to be launched on August 25.
"We need the voice of a man saying being a man doesn't mean you must abuse your wife and the deputy president will chair this council."
She says their theme for this year is 56 years of women united against poverty, inequality and unemployment in honour of the Women's March of 1956.
She says she's disheartened that even though South Africa has more girls at universities, at the moment the girls are taking humanities instead of sciences.
"Sciences are the disciplines that are the backbone of economic growth," she says.
"So we've piloted a Techno Girls programme in Limpopo to encourage girls to get into the sciences and technical fields, which are the high paying jobs. Over the two-year pilot programme we produced 20 engineers, so this year it was rolled out to all provinces.
"The aim is to send the message loud and clear that girls can do it too."