The newly elected president of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC) Women's League says the ANC-led government has made it possible for South African women to empower themselves. Angelina Motshekga told VOA what South African women must do now is strengthen institutions like the ANC Women's League to address remaining barriers such as violence against women, fighting poverty, and increasing political participation.
"Under the ANC government, there's been complete space created for women. In 1990 hardly 30 percent of women would have been represented in parliament. But as we speak now under the ANC government, we have more than 48 percent of parliamentarians being women. So government can do this much in terms of creating an enabling environment. The challenge is getting women to develop the necessary capacity to use the space created for them," she said.
Motshekga said the ANC-led government has put in place gender-friendly laws and that more women are staying in school than when she was a student.
"When I went to school, most girls at a certain age dropped out. But under the ANC government there has been conscious mechanism created to retain women in school," Motshekga said.
Motshekga disagreed with Women's League outgoing secretary general Bathabile Dlamini who has criticized members for using the organization to seek higher government positions.
"I won't agree with that comment, and I can give you a number for example women in government. Half of those ministers, they may be members of the ANC but members of the Women's League were not necessarily leaders of the ANC. Those women would have risen in their own rights even if they were not members of the League. So I don't agree with that comment. But I think she's entitled to her view," Motshekga said.
She said even though the ANC-led government is trying in terms of providing affordable housing for poor South Africans, a lot still was needed to be done.
"I think a lot of potential things can be done which were not done to address our housing problem in terms of alternative building materials. But I am aware that this government within its limitation has done all it could to provide housing. Women get highest priority because they are most of the time heads of families or they are the vulnerable ones who would need government's protection. So I want to admit that yes it's true there's a lot that needs to be done, but also I want to acknowledge that a lot has been done," Motshekga said.
Motshekga said the Women's League supports ANC President Jacob Zuma who is trying to fight off allegations of corruption.
"The ANC Women's League is an integral part of the ANC, and last year in Polokwane the ANC said it would support the president in the case. So as a League we would be supporting him using whatever methods we can. But also as League members we are very law-abiding citizens. I mean it's a standing principle to say everybody is innocent until found guilty. So first of concern, the president of the ANC has not been found guilty by any court of law and therefore he is an innocent man," Motshekga said.