I rise with all the humility and a deep sense of honour on behalf of the government and people of KwaZulu-Natal to say a few words of welcome to the local and international delegates to this conference of the African Women in Leadership Organisation.
What an exciting moment for me to be in the presence of some of the most inspiring and amazing women leaders on the African continent.
The leadership and accomplishments of all the women leaders, Vice- Presidents, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Speakers, MECs, top Bureaucrats and Corporate Industry Captains, present here today, is a testimony to their audaciousness, and resilience.
You are not just amazing women leaders. you are incredible leaders!
We wish to welcome you to the Province of KwaZulu-Natal, the birthplace of the African Union, which came into being in Durban in 2002, and where the vision of the African century was visualized. Our common destiny joins us at the hip with you the daughters of Africa who want this the 21st century, to be a story of a thriving Africa. For Africa to thrive women must take centre stage and lead because when women lead, Africa wins!
This conference has made its way around our continent and Africa’s Diaspora a few times, sharpening itself and gaining the traction that it now commands among the leaders of the world, especially among those who are females.
From its humble beginnings in the streets and boardrooms of Accra, Ghana, the African Women Leadership Organisation has become the premier forum for women from across Africa to network, educate, support, lead and agitate for the assumption of leadership by women in both public and private platforms and sectors.
Since 2009 AWLO has become the glue for bringing us together, and the solid foundation for building of leadership capacity among women everywhere, challenging every female to aspire to leadership positions in their communities, countries and globally.
To have this organisation sail to life from the historic Ghanaian capital Accra, was a great tribute to the people of Africa, but also to the leadership of Ghana’s founding father Kwame Nkrumah a pioneer in the emancipation of women.
As President of Ghana in 1960, soon after gaining independence in 1957, Dr Nkrumah organized a historic conference for women in Africa and the diaspora. This was to celebrate the women’s contribution to the liberation struggle, but also as a platform for reflection on their future role in a free and united Africa.
That meeting underscored the deep conviction among pan-Africanists about the revolutionary role of women and highlighted the fact that the liberation of Africa is impossible without the emancipation of all the women of the continent.
It was at the same conference at which Shirley du Bois, the wife of the W.E.B Du Bois, made a passionate plea to the women of Africa and I quote:
“This great giant Africa, which was anaesthetized for so long, is now awake and has shaken itself out of the slumber that for so many years enabled exploiters and marauders to plunder its wealth. The new African has arrived on the scene. Colonialism and imperialism are on the run, fleeing from the blows of African irredentism. What is woman’s part in the great struggle for African liberation?”
Indeed, here in South Africa following decades of struggle, on August 9, 1956, 20,000 South African women marched against racism and national oppression in Pretoria. This set the stage for a broadening of the mass struggle against the exploitation and repression of the apartheid system and cemented the role of women in the struggle.
Within the ANC as an organization there was a process of radical and historical transformation that mirrored the development of the nationalist and continental movement to accommodate women in the front leadership.
Programme Director, all over the world women of African descent from all generations will find in AWLO not just an organisation, but a warm home in which their true potential can be realised through close interaction with other women.
Welcoming the holding of AWLO Conference in KZN
Having traversed almost every part of the continent including being held in the USA, we are pleased to have this conference back on our shores.
Held in over 10 countries so far, I am pleased at the same time that this conference has designated the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal as the Chief Host of this gathering. We are indeed pleased to be Chief Host to about 40 speakers and an estimated 500 delegates who will put their minds under the theme: “Women Solidarity: An Impetus to the advancement of Gender Equality”.
Over the coming days our delegates will discuss and debate gender mainstreaming and facilitating inclusive decision-making processes for women’s leadership advancement on the continent.
As women we will have opportunity as business owners to meet with the counterparts from the rest of the continent and the world, young people will engage in intergenerational dialogue focusing on youth-centred issues and integration to foster women’s solidarity.
We wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the women who over the years have kept the light burning leading the AWLO in various capacities and chapters for more than a decade.
Programme Director, I have no doubt in my mind that delegates to this conference more than any other, appreciate that we will not be able to achieve these objectives unless we place women at the centre.
We make this not only as a statement of faith, but as a practical response to the need for the transformation of our society. This gathering is also best placed to trigger the mobilisation of women all over Africa to join and lead their own second liberation, which is the struggle for economic freedom. This is aptly captured in the conference theme which is “Women Solidarity: An Impetus to the advancement of Gender Equality”.
This advancement will be attained when we build a support system of peers at national and continental level; when we create Safe Spaces for Gender Equality and Build what is called a “Networthy Network”.
It is clear therefore that more should be done to change social attitudes and patriarchy including those of women who sometimes act as pillars and supporters of patriarchy. As women leaders, we all carry the responsibility of moulding the new and African Model Citizen that does not resort to violence when he is angry or frustrated.
We also have a duty to bring up young girls who will be assertive and who are able to claim space and take over leadership in all avenues of life. They must grow to be women who support the struggles and progress of other women.
As you are aware, I am the first female Premier of KwaZulu-Natal after 28 years of democracy. When we announced our Provincial Executive Council in August, we decided to make history in KZN when I named a massive 6 out of 10 Members of the Executive Council who are women, 11 if you include me and the Director General is also a woman. The result is that for the first time in our history, our provincial Cabinet is 63% women. This is massive victory in a country where to all intents and purposes, patriarchy and outdated stereotypes about women’s abilities exist. That it has taken 29 years for a woman to become a Premier of KwaZulu-Natal challenges us to ask ourselves why, why when we know that women are already taking care of their own homes, children, businesses and the community.
When we speak of the empowerment of women we must also speak about land. Women cannot be involved in property and construction without access to land. And when there are discussions about land ownership, land restitution, women are not always involved. Women should be involved when there are discussions about the ownership of land.
KwaZulu-Natal will continue to advance the vision of Generation Equality by mainstreaming gender in the public service and using state procurement to empower women and to bring them in the mainstream economy.
Like Dr Nkrumah emphasized: “the men alone cannot complete the gigantic task we have set ourselves. The time has come when the women of Africa and of African descent must rise up in their millions to join the Africa crusade for freedom.”
This AWLO is a critical vehicle for women of Africa to share their experiences and to hear from other women. We stand here to say to each other: there is hope, there is strength in being together. Many of us here have overcome the odds and fought a great fight. One analyst once observed that women in the western world have a task of shattering the glass ceiling whereas women in Africa have to conquer concrete walls. We have overcome many moments that could break us, we are determined and more vigorous to crave a new path to light our way for many generation of women who will come after us..
With these few words, let me extend a warm welcome to all our visitors from all corners of the African Continent and the globe to KwaZulu Natal.
Welcome to the land of the Big Five, the Great Drakensberg Ukhahlamba Mountains, and Isimangaliso Wetlands, the long beaches and the warm weather. Welcome to the Zulu Kingdom land of the warrior and the Koi and San and much more!
This is your home not only for the next few days, but even in future when you come visit.
We look forward to welcoming you again and again in the near future as leisure and business visitors.
May I take the opportunity to wish you the best in your deliberations.
Malibongwe Igama lamakhosikazi!