Public Protector calls on women to play
their part in supporting and strengthening constitutional
Monday, September 10, 2012
Even though a critical mass of women have
ascended to leadership positions in scarce skills sectors
such as the judiciary, there are lingering challenges that
still need to be addressed, says Public Protector Adv. Thuli
She was addressing a dinner of the Higher Education Resource
Services South Africa (HERS-SA) Academy in Cape Town on
Sunday night. The event was attended by women academics and
leaders from the higher education sector.
In her speech, the Public Protector said having women in
leadership positions was a human rights issue, specifically,
a matter of the right to equality, which is entrenched in
section 9 of the Constitution.
She said the act of placing women in leadership positions
gave expression to the value of non-sexism, which is one of
the founding values of the country’s democracy.
“Among the foundational values of our constitutional
democracy, is the achievement of equality, which places a
positive responsibility on those in authority to actively
promote equality. Active promotion of equality includes
positive measures to advance women, including putting them
at all levels of decision-making in all areas of society,”
the Public Protector said.
She further stated that putting women in decision-making
positions provided organisations and society with an
opportunity to harness all available human resources while
tapping into women's unique insights based on their gendered
She said that from the time of Charlotte Maxeke, through the
times of Helen Joseph and Lillian Ngoyi, women have always
stood for social justice. They have used the space accorded
to them in mainstream organisations to pursue of social
justice. The Public Protector called upon women in
decision-making today to make a difference in favour of
social justice and, where necessary, act as a voice of
reason in this regard.
While applauding the advent of the Gender Equality and Women
Empowerment Bill, she decried the fact that 12 years since
the enactment of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of
Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000, chapter 5 of the
legislation, which seeks to strengthen the regulatory
framework regarding the promotion of equality, including
gender equality, was yet to be implemented.
However, the Public Protector noted progress registered thus
far in that the country now had a woman Judge President, a
Deputy Judge President and many Regional Court Presidents
and Chief Magistrates, who are women. Women also made up
over 40 percent of Parliament, Cabinet, Provincial
Legislatures and Municipal Councils.
Despite this, she said, women occupying leadership positions
faced a number of challenges. These challenges needed to be
addressed through lessons drawn from activists such as
Charlotte Maxeke, Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi and Albertina
Sisulu, the Public Protector advised.
Such lessons included the need to take a stand, acting with
authenticity, consistency, integrity, excellence, courage,
persistence and resilience. Exercising value-based
decision-making, being effective communicators and serving
as sources of inspiration to constituencies were also
important qualities to strive for.
On authenticity, which she referred to as speaking in one's
own voice, the Public Protector told the gathering that
genuine action did not always win the “popularity contests”
but was the only way women in leadership could make a
“The alternative is to act as a proxy. In that case nothing
changes and your presence or absence does not matter … If
you do not make a difference, you do not matter,” she said.
One of the keys to making a difference, the Public Protector
said, was being dependable and acting with integrity. She
cautioned women leaders against being biased in their
actions and decisions.
“If you agree with people to act wrongly against another,
they get to know that your true character is that you can be
swayed and used … if you act as a proxy, you are disposable
as anyone can be a puppet,” the Public Protector said.
She said the key to integrity was ensuring that, as a
leader, you do what you say, emphasising that it was
difficult to follow a leader who said one thing but did the
It was important that a leader’s words and deeds do not only
inspire belief and action towards a shared vision, but also
hope for a better future, the Public Protector advised,
adding that difficult quests were impossible without hope.
She reminded women that things did not always work out as
planned despite all the efforts put in. “Success is living
up to your full potential with the cards you were dealt with
and not living someone else’s life.”
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