Promoting women’s agenda

South Africa’s first lady Bongi Ngema-Zuma and Iran’s Vice President on Women and Family Affairs Shahindokht Molaverdi, discussed women’s empowerment as a key and high-priority plan for both governments, at a meeting in Tehran on Sunday.

Ngema-Zuma accompanied South African President Jacob Zuma during his visit to Iran last week at the head of a high-powered politico-economic delegation.

At the meeting at the vice presidency, the two sides explored avenues of cooperation in the area of women’s affairs, IRNA reported.

“The Rouhani government has ushered in a new era of activities and efforts to empower women and harness their maximum capacities for sustainable development,” Molaverdi said. “We are hoping to achieve significant goals within the much-anticipated five-year economic, social and cultural development Plan (2016-2021).”

“When women are empowered, nations and governments are strengthened,” said Ngema-Zuma.

While expressing hope for future collaboration with Iran on matters relating to women and family affairs, she pointed to efforts underway to curb gender inequality in her country.

“After the transition from the apartheid system in 1994 to one of majority rule, we are seriously pursuing the elimination of inequality and gender-bias in laws,” she said.

A member of the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the Africa Heritage Society and the Institute of Marketing Management (IMM), she established the Bongi Ngema-Zuma Foundation in 2010 and is dedicated to raising awareness on diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.

Noting that extending nationwide health coverage is a major goal, the first lady said a workgroup under her auspices is tasked with enabling women in rural areas of South Africa.

“We are carrying out educational and training projects in rural areas at two levels. Wide-scale information on cancer and osteoporosis is another program aimed to promote the health status of women and raise national health indices,” she said.

Pushing for Change

Molaverdi pointed to the unprecedented number of 14 seats secured by women in the 10th parliamentary elections held in February and said Iranian women can share their experience in various areas.

The Office of the Vice Presidency has placed five priorities on its agenda in the upcoming FYDP, namely family structures, health, job market, social security insurance, and social harm.

“The incoming parliament could provide opportunities for women lawmakers to push for change and promote gender rights and awareness in the society.”
“Bilateral exchange of knowledge will be mutually beneficial,” she noted, stressing that such collaboration would help alleviate the situation of women in both countries.

The vice president also took stock of old ties between Iran and the African National Congress and their cultural and scientific commonalities, and said expanding mutual ties is of great importance given both states’ strategic geographical location. Ngema-Zuma also made mention of South Africa’s commemoration of Women’s Month in August as a tribute to the more than 50,000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on August 9, 1956 in protest against the extension to women of Pass Laws (a form of internal passport system designed to segregate the population, manage urbanization, and allocate migrant labor).

By Financial Tribune