'Graduate away from social grants'

Anna Majavu and Sapa

Anna Majavu and Sapa

The government's intervention in women's empowerment needs to be strengthened, President Thabo Mbeki said yesterday.

Parliament hosted the annual Women's Parliament under the theme "Parliament empowering women for poverty eradication".

Mbeki said gender inequality made women vulnerable to poverty and a denial of opportunities and the essentials that provided a better life.

"If these issues are not addressed, they perpetuate poverty from one generation to the next," Mbeki said.

Hundreds of female members of provincial parliaments and representatives of non-governmental organisations are attending the two-day event that has been held every year since 2004.

Rosie Fori from the Northern Cape provincial legislature said she had come to present resolutions on poverty eradication that she hoped Women's Parliament would adopt.

Abbie Mchunu, a KwaZulu-Natal member of the national council of provinces said "there are no issues affecting women only."

Mbeki said that although South Africa is making progress towards achieving 50percent female representation in parliament, "much work still needs to be done for the country to achieve gender equality".

He said that South Africa has 40percent women in local government and 32,65percent in parliament.

Mbeki also praised women working in the informal economy. He said those working as hawkers, in part-time employment, in agriculture and domestic work were the "backbone of the family unit and the community".

Mbeki said that people must be "assisted" to "graduate away from dependence on social grants", and that poverty-stricken households must "contribute" to their "own upliftment".

But, this was criticised by the Black Sash, which is one of the organisations, including Cosatu, that make up the Basic Income Grant coalition.

The Women's Parliament ends today.