Poverty has a Female Face - Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma

The Minister in the Presidency, Hon Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be attained without paying attention to women’s rights because women are the hardest hit by poverty. She said this when giving the keynote address to participants at the at a regional workshop to develop strategies to ensuring the visibility and active participation of civil society groups from Africa during the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) in New York, in July 2019.

This regional workshop currently taking place in Johannesburg, is organised by the Dullah Omar Institute at the University of the Western Cape in conjunction with African Centre of Excellence for Access to Justice as contribution to the policy debates aimed at access to justice in Africa and Asia in view of the SDG 16.

“Poverty has a female face, both in Africa and globally", she said. According to the UNFPA- 6 of 10 of the poorest in the world are women; two thirds of the world’s illiterate are women; women constitute less than 28% of senior and mid management; lowest female leadership rates in the world are in North Africa and Western Asia,

Gender equality is a necessary precursor to development and addressing poverty. Addressing women’s issues is half way towards addressing poverty and other SDGs, including SDG 16. It is important to note that SDGs are anchored around gender equality,” Dlamini-Zuma added.

“Access to quality education, up to tertiary, she pointed out, can be a determinant of success in life and breaking free from the vicious cycle of poverty. Education  and skills development are important parts of an inclusive society and they remain the quickest equaliser when it comes to inequality,” she said.

By targeting and educating women, improvement in the family and larger societies can be seen, she told the workshop. According to her, studies show that women spend at least 70% of their income on their families. “If women are empowered with resources, men and children and by implication the society at large, benefit even more.”

Dlamini-Zuma pointed out that, one of the strongest predictors of poverty remains unemployment. “In South Africa employment is determined by a combination of factors, including education, race, gender and location. It is important to employ new ways of creating work in the face of the 4th revolution, especially for the marginalised in society.”

Having recently emerged from a very divided and discriminatory society, she said South Africa continues to pursue its healing by ensuring it jealously guards SDG 16. CSOs have an important role in lobbying for strong institutions which promotes justice and inclusivity, to ensure access to justice and equality before the law, she told the workshop.

Unfortunately, she said, accessing the legal system in South Africa still remains very expensive. “Indigenous knowledge and legal systems must continually be explored as means of conflict resolution, in furtherance of SDG 16. If we are to achieve SDGs collectively, we must deal with the issues in developing countries to mitigate desperate immigration to developed economies. CSOs must continue to amplify their voices in this regard.”

South Africa has not been particularly proactive on its report to the HLPF on SDGs, although efforts are currently underway to ensure the report is completed timeously, she said. “The government of South Africa is conscious that CSOs alternative report on the attainment of SDGs forms an essential part of the process and is delighted that this forum is taking the lead in ensuring that CSO is given the space and the voice to report on SDG progress in SA.”

Dlamini-Zuma said despite the upcoming elections, South Africa is committed to ensuring its voluntary report is submitted to the UN and that CSO also has the space to submit theirs. In closing, she noted that there is a need to strengthen the implementation of recommendations through the peer review mechanisms. The government remain keen on receiving recommendations for inclusion in its report from this forum, she added.

According to Dlamini-Zuma, at the core of SDGs are human development and eradication of poverty, as important precursors to lasting peace and growth. She affirmed that by addressing key human development areas, significant progress will be made in addressing poverty and other SDGs, including SDG 16.

She said that there is not a single country in the world today that is on course with achieving all the SDGs. Unfortunately, she pointed out, 38 countries in the world remained on the no development index, many of which are in the African and Asian region, leading to lower life expectancy, lower mean year of schooling.