THE plight of women who suffer at the hands of their partners was highlighted yesterday by KwaZulu-Natal's first lady, May Mkhize.
To mark the last day of this year's 16 Days of Activism of No Violence Against Women and Children, Mkhize addressed the female inmates at the Kokstad Correctional Centre.
"The everyday lives our women lead are a constant reminder of their resilience, their intelligence, their ability to cope and their sense of devotion to their families and communities," she said.
Mkhize said South African women have always have been the prime movers in the struggle for liberation.
"The 2000 women who marched to the Union Building on August 9 1956 in defiance of the oppressive pass laws paved the way for this freedom we are enjoying today," she said.
Mkhize said women today can draw inspiration from those women "but this time around they must fight against abuse. They must fight for their rights, and more importantly for their socio-economic liberation".
She said women today were faced with a new set of challenges that included high rates of unemployment.
The Labour Force Survey data recorded in September 2006 reports an official unemployment rate of 21,2percent for men, compared with 30,7percent among women.
The General Household Survey for the same year indicated that there were still important gender differences in the percentage of people aged 20 years and older, who have no formal education.
A substantial number (10,7percent) of this group still have no formal qualifications. In 2006, 8,6percent of men had no formal education, while 12,6percent of women had no formal education.
"Clearly, these statistics require all of us to respond effectively to the socio-economic challenges faced by women.
"The best way, of course, is to inculcate entrepreneurial skills among women," said Mkhize.
She said small businesses can unlock the door for countless women.
Mkhize described yesterday's event as one of the most successful ever in the history of KwaZulu-Natal.