SONA should reflect a feminist agenda in government plans

19 June 2019 - President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to deliver his first State of the Nation address of the 6th Parliament on Thursday under the theme “Following up on our Commitments: Making Your Future Work Better”.

The Women and Democracy Initiative (WDI) at the Dullah Omar Institute wants the President to put his money where his mouth is and make good on his commitments to improve the lived realities of womxn in South Africa.

Considering that GDP decreased by 3,2% in the first quarter, it is widely expected that the focus of the SONA will be on the economy and job creation. We want to remind the President to put womxn at the centre of government’s plans for the economy and job creation.


Unemployment, poverty and low working wages affect womxn disproportionately. We want the President to give a gendered analysis and response to the unemployment crisis. According to Vivienne Mentor-Lalu, researcher at the Dullah Omar Institute’s Women and Democracy Initiative, Ramaphosa will have to present the nation with clear, radical pro poor and pro-womxn plans and demonstrate the political will to stick to them. “The face of poverty and unemployment is predominantly young black womxn, and it is time that government programmes geared toward that, reflect this reality.”

It is expected that Ramaphosa will most likely focus on the manufacturing, energy and infrastructure sectors. The WDI reminds the President that although these sectors are major drivers in the economy, they are still male dominated. We need clear plans on how womxn’s representation in these sectors will be prioritised. Motlatsi Komote, researcher at the WDI said, “The focus is still primarily on employment in sectors dominated by men and there are no targets or plans to increase the ratio of womxn as active economic agents in these sectors.”

The gendered wage gap

There is still a big wage gap between genders. Domestic workers who are predominantly womxn still earn less than construction workers who are mostly men. “These minimums reinforce the lower value placed on ‘womxn’s work’ and we need greater commitment to regulate this gender wage gap,” said Mentor-Lalu.

Government passed the National Minimum Wage Act, which came into effect in January 2019. Despite the concerns raised by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) on the impact of the national minimum wage (NMW) on care work last year, there has been no attempt to arrest fears among NPOs who cannot afford the NMW without the necessary funding from government. Many smaller NPOs who broadly welcomed the NMW depend on private donations and government funding for their operations but without government coming to the party they simply cannot afford to pay the minimum wage and provide services. This already led to many smaller NPOs across the country closing their doors, which left mostly womxn as drivers of the care work sector jobless.

Gender Based Violence

Civil society organisations and activists in South Africa were encouraged by the President’s commitments against gender-based violence during the GBV Summit in 2018. However, these interventions need proper funding, implementation and less talk-shop. It is not enough for Ramaphosa to pledge intervention, yet the budget as presented by the Minister of Finance in February 2019 failed to speak to these promises. Womxn demand firm commitment and dedicated resourcing in line with gender-responsive planning, budgeting and monitoring.

Contrary to commitments made during the GBV summit to expand Thuthuzela Care Centres, we note recent media reports claiming that sexual violence victims in half of the Thuthuzela Care Centres countrywide are without counselling services due to funding constraints. We urge the President to immediately avail the necessary resources for these much-needed services.

The WDI will continue to actively monitor and hold government accountable to improving the quality of womxn’s lives. END

For further comment contact:

Vivienne Mentor-Lalu 082 494 0788

Motlatsi Komote 072 872 2200