Rural women are marginalised and still do not enjoy economic freedom like their counterparts in the urban areas, Zululand district mayor and IFP national chairman Zanele Magwaza-Msibi said yesterday.
Addressing delegates at the Women in Local Government conference in Durban, Magwaza-Msibi said rural women had not been acknowledged for their contribution to the struggle for change in the country.
Magwaza-Msibi said despite all the gains of the past 14 years, women in rural areas were still suffering from a lack of economic freedom, were being decimated by HIV-Aids, joblessness, illiteracy and general abuse.
"Women empowerment has only targeted urban women, ignoring those in rural areas. We cannot claim to have achieved freedom when we still have women who suffer abject poverty and abuse," she said.
"Empower rural women to earn a living wage so that they can enjoy economic freedom. Government interventions such as black economic empowerment have only benefitted a limited few," added Magwaza-Msibi.
She also accused women of being their own worst enemies, saying they did not help each other to climb ladders. She said this had contributed to the situation in which women currently found themselves in.
"Let's assist each other to climb the ladder, be it a political one or otherwise. We must not affirm ourselves on the grounds of gender alone, but on our ability and merit because if we fail, it would be an insult for women to hold high positions simply because they are women," she said.
Magwaza-Msibi acknowledged that most women councillors failed to debate vigorously like men because they did not give themselves time to read and prepare properly.