Women’s Minister in the Presidency Bathabile Dlamini has told the Commission on the Status of Women that there is still much to be done to dismantle the system of patriarchy in the country.

Dlamini is leading the South African delegation, among over 10 000 delegates to this year’s event, focused on social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for women and girls.

Minister Dlamini lauded her government’s efforts towards the emancipation of women. In adopting a comprehensive social protection system that is both transformative and redistributive for women and girls. But she acknowledged that stumbling blocks remained.

“Our history shows that our policy advances on women’s empowerment and gender equality was a result of women’s hard won battles and sacrifices. Unfortunately there is still much to be done to dismantle the system of patriarchy. South African society is built on the Constitution that embeds democratic values, social justice, fundamental human rights, equality and human dignity. Our Bill of Rights guarantees access to health care services, sexual and reproductive health and rights, sufficient food and water, and social security and social assistance.”

The minister also participated in a panel discussion with Scandinavian countries on social protections that looked in particular at the question of paternity and maternity leave.

In Finland, for example, mothers can start their maternity leave seven weeks before the estimated due date and the government there covers an additional 4 months of paid leave through a maternity grant while offering 2 months paternity leave.

In Norway both parents are entitled to 46 weeks at full salary or 56 weeks at 80% of their salary. Similar in Denmark where parents get 52 weeks – an entire year – of paid parental leave.  The Minister then reflected on her country’s provisions.

“Men have ten days paternity leave and women have six months maternity and I’ve heard that other countries divide that six months into two and our responsibility is to go back home and push back the frontiers.”

In addition, a strong focus on female small business owners and the empowerment of women through infrastructure and the economy. Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu is also part of the delegation.

“Women cannot rely only on social protection, they need to be empowered and in this particular case, as the Minister of Small Business Development, one of the reasons why I am here is basically to say to the women it is possible for them firstly to understand the economy of their own country, the economy of the world. Secondly we need to pull out women to be able to be entrepreneurs, be in the entrepreneurship space, thirdly we must also empower these women to be able to start their own businesses to run their own cooperatives but it all starts with ensuring that the is correct infrastructure that supports women.”

The Commission concludes its work on March 22nd.