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    Dr. Gwen Ramokgopa Ignites Change at Forbes Women Summit with Stirring Keynote

    Dr Gwen Ramokgopa, Treasurer General of the African National Congress (ANC), delivered a powerful keynote speech to open the FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit 2024, held in Johannesburg on Friday. The event marked one of the largest female summits convened in honour of International Women’s Day in Africa, and was attended by female leaders and pioneers from across the continent.

    These included notable figures from a wide range of countries and fields, spanning from Valdene Reddy, the Director of Capital Markets at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, and renowned South African singer Shekinah, to Clare Akamanzi, CEO of NBA Africa; Jennifer Bash, CEO of Alaska Tanzania; and Abiola Ijasanmi, the COO of the Confederation of African Football.

    Dr. Gwen Ramokgopa Ignites Change at Forbes Women Summit with Stirring Keynote, EntertainmentSA News South Africa
    Image: KayaFM

    “All of us have contributed to breaking many glass ceilings that we were told exist. In many aspects of our lives, we arrived there and discovered that, actually, there were never any glass ceilings. We just had to venture out, and we just had to have an opportunity,” said Ramokgopa.

    “I think today is for us to celebrate the achievements and contributions made for the empowerment of women, and the improvement of the lives of the girl child, equally with the boy child who is also born by women. But today is also to now say, what else do we need to do to get to a more gender equitable society?”

    Lingering inequality and challenges

    Reflecting on the global progress made towards advancing women empowerment, Ramokgopa noted that one in ten women still live in extreme poverty, rising 7.7 times for women living in conflict areas. The number of women living in conflict areas has doubled since 2017 to reach 614 million, while climate change will leave an estimated 200 million women and girls hungry by 2030 – double the number of men.

    Further pointing to the significant disparities between the progress made even between various African countries, in South Sudan, between 1,000 and 1,500 of every 100,000 women die each year in childbirth compared to about 119 in South Africa.

    Acknowledging these challenges, she stressed the need for concerted efforts to uplift marginalized women and girls across Africa, reiterating that in the words of former Mozambican President Samora Michel, the emancipation of women is not merely a charitable act but a fundamental necessity for societal progress.

    Breaking barriers for gender equality

    Ramokgopa further underscored the imperative for African nations to prioritize gender equality in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

    “We know that over 100 million more women could be lifted out of poverty through education, family planning, fair and equal wages, and expanded social benefits.

    “We also know that part of these gender equality dividends could enable us create almost 300 million jobs in care services where many women are already working, like a daycare for the sick or the elderly, as well as in fields like teaching.”

    To support the gender equality agenda, South Africa’s public sector and state-owned enterprises must strive to ensure that the targeted 40% of procurement budgets are allocated towards women-led businesses, as the country continues to fall short of this goal, she said.

    “Academics and research institutions must also ensure that their agendas are not ivory tower-based, but are based in reality and are directed towards unlocking gender equality.”

    In closing, she added that it was important to continue celebrating the achievements that have been made, and that continued collaboration and innovation were key to overcoming lingering challenges. 

    “It is time for women to stand up. And, as we rise, we must remember to lift others as we rise ourselves. And we have to be very careful to help each other be effective, positive, and impactful beyond the pressure.”

    Main image: Jacaranda FM

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