South Africa hosts women economic assembly

PRETORIA— The second Women Economic Assembly (WECONA) is expected to bring together the private sector, including businesswomen, government and civil society to transform the economic landscape in South Africa.

WECONA, which is held for the second time this year, will take place in Pretoria on Oct 5-6.

The assembly will be held under the theme, ‘Unlocking gender-responsive value chains for a resilient economy’, with a focus on showcasing how the public and private sectors have implemented their commitment towards gender transformation in industry value chains.

The theme of WECONA 2022 talks to South Africa’s economic recovery, which is at risk of becoming a futile exercise if women are deliberately excluded from participating in value chains in various sectors.

The inaugural WECONA was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Oct 6, 2021 during a hybrid event attended by businesswomen, government leaders and officials, private companies, civil society organisations and other stakeholders.

The private sector, including civil society and women’s organisations, businesswomen and government have partnered to form WECONA, an initiative to facilitate the participation of women-owned businesses in core areas of the economy.

This initiative emphasises the participation of women-owned enterprises on the entire value chain to foster sustainable economic development.

The WECONA platform is fast becoming the go-to platform for women economic empowerment through negotiating sector-specific preferential procurement targets, reviewing representation in management structures, and securing commitments from sectors that have fallen behind in meeting transformation targets.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Women Economic Assembly co-chairperson, Futhi Mtoba, said this year’s assembly builds on last year’s launch, which gave them the wind in their sails to go out and meet with various sectors in mapping the economic landscape of the country.

“We found a willingness to partner with us to transform value chain eco-systems to ensure a more equitable share of business in this country goes to women. The second assembly gives us the opportunity to present what has been achieved, and to bring in new voices and sectors to continue our goal of transforming the business landscape of this country,” Mtoba said.

WECONA co-chairperson, Namhla Mniki, said since the inaugural event last year, through WECONA, there have been transformational conversations with industry associations and representatives to establish procurement targets to ensure women-owned businesses have increased levels of participation within those value chains.

Mniki said the dialogues have led to the implementation of game-changing initiatives in several sectors, including the financial industry and automotive sectors.

“In October 2021 when we launched, both public sector and industry leaders made commitments towards gender transformation. We are starting to see progress. Take Siphiwo for instance, who is in the process of opening a 100% women-owned car dealership or Akhona who, launched three car dealerships this year.

“Before 2021, not a single woman owned a car dealership in South Africa. We want to build on the successes of the past year and accelerate the pace of gender transformation,” Mniki said.

The assembly aligns with the outcomes of Pillar 5 of the National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide.

Pillar 5 calls for the need to create more economic opportunities for women who are vulnerable to abuse due to poverty, unemployment and social inequality.


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