The economic transformation of society cannot be done without women. That was among the main messages to emerge from side event at the Commission on the Status of Women in New York hosted by South African NGO Ilitha Labantu that examined the centrality of Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Post 2015 Development Agenda.
A discussion focused on the economic costs of gender inequality and the benefits financial or otherwise that occur when women are able to live financially independent lives.
In the audience is the Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu. She says, “Being here in New York for me and seeing the role of small and medium enterprises and how they contributing not only to your GDP but just contributing to the wellbeing of their own people is a lesson for us in South Africa.
"Small and Medium enterprises have got an important role to play in the economic transformation of our economy and in particular for women because once women have economic independence then they are able to take the right decisions even more for their families and for society in general,” says Zulu.
The African Development Bank represented by Gender Envoy Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi pointed to the importance of not just of creating small businesses for women but small businesses that were decent and sustainable.
Women’s Minister Susan Shabangu agreed, “If we look at ourselves, the issue of making sure that all our processes, in the economic space, women can participate.”
Shabangu says, “The ocean economy - we have many young women who have gone out for training. We have pilots, young women who are pilots - that’s part of the empowerment of women in our space.”
However, she says it is also making sure that critical areas, women can go to school and do engineering in making sure that they can access the various sectors of our economy.
With a resounding call for less lip-service and greater implementation, the founder of Ilitha Labantu, Mandisa Monakeli says that our women are unemployed.
“We’re event talking about working at home that is unpaid work and we are saying women need to be paid for whatever job they are doing and when we talk about that we need to look at how do we bring those together equality talking about finances, how do we put equality together with finances,” says Monakeli.
As the mainstreaming of gender equality and women’s empowerment is increasingly being seen as critical to achieving all 17 sustainable development goals come 2030.