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Parliament, Tuesday 13 March 2018 - The South African Parliamentary delegation to the 62nd Session of the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) yesterday participated in the opening plenary and several roundtable discussions relating to the promotion of the interests of rural women and girls.

Parliament’s six-member multiparty delegation, led by the Chairperson of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), Ms Thandi Modise, is at the CSW’s 62nd Session currently taking place in New York from 12 to 23 March 2018. The delegation also includes NCOP House Chairperson Ms Masefako Dikgale and four other Members of Parliament Ms Nthabiseng Khunou, Ms Grace Tseke, Ms Denise Robinson and Ms Delisile Ngwenya.

The issues of rural women and girls are taking the centre-stage at the CSW’s 62nd Session, which is being held under the priority theme: “Challenges and Opportunities in Achieving Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls”.

The Parliamentary delegation, which is part of the SA country delegation that includes the Ministry of Women, took part in roundtables which dealt with the following topics: “good practices in the empowerment of rural women and girls, including through access to education, infrastructure and technology, food security and nutrition” and “good practices in the empowerment of rural women and girls, including through prevention of gender-based violence and through access to justice, social services and healthcare”.

Delegation leader Ms Thandi Modise stressed that the necessity and importance of empowering rural women and girls and the realisation of their human rights cannot be over-emphasised.

“Women who constitute a large proportion of the rural population have limited, if any, access to the means of food production and remain vulnerable to food insecurity. Often, rural women are under-represented in local and national institutions - which inhibits their voices and participation in decision-making processes. Generally, rural women and girls continue to bear the brunt of structural barriers, discrimination, oppression and gender-based violence, amongst others,” Ms Modise said.

The focus of this Session of the CSW is, therefore, important in ensuring that United Nations member states galvanise their individual and collective efforts to accelerate the betterment of the conditions of rural women and girls, and end all forms of oppression, violence and other harmful practices.

Ms Modise added: “We need to intensify our efforts to end poverty, eradicate hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, promote sustainable agriculture, achieve full employment and decent work for all, and combat climate change. Integral to this is the ability of rural women to access land and have land tenure security, as well as their ability to be free from all forms of violence, discrimination and harmful practices. As the South African Parliament, through oversight, we must ensure that the goals of the National Development Plan are met - of creating 11 million jobs to reduce unemployment, and significantly reduce poverty and inequality by 2030.

Since 1994 Parliament has passed a number of progressive laws designed to advance the development of women in all spheres of their lives. However, much needs to be done. “We need, uncompromisingly, to reject backward and harmful practices perpetrated under the guise of culture. Advancing issues of women and economic empowerment must also include ensuring that land distribution programs benefit rural women in terms of land ownership.”

Today, the Chairperson of the NCOP and the South African Parliament’s delegation will take part in the discussion organised by the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women on the subject: “Parliaments deliver for rural women and girls”. On Wednesday, NCOP Chairperson Ms Modise will address one of the side events, together with UN Women Executive Director Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and other speakers.

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