Minerals and Energy Minister Lindiwe Hendricks has urged women to take the lead in driving economic growth and take advantage of emerging new opportunities.
The minister was speaking at the launch of the National Committee of Business Women's Organisations (NCBWO), an initiative aimed at bringing businesswomen's organisations together in an effort to strengthen women's economic emancipation.
"Government departments ...have made commitments to support women in their drive towards greater economic empowerment, and ensuring that women in business are actively supported through the empowerment charters, incentives, information sharing, trade missions, access to finance, business support and other opportunities.
"We are also committed to ensuring that women's views on policy and legislative issues are heard. The DTI's Strategic Framework on Gender and Women's Economic Empowerment is starting to address these issues," said Ms Hendricks.
The minister raised concern that there was a widening gap between women and men in the economy.
Ms Hendricks said the NCWBO would create the space where women from existing business organisations could come together to consolidate a coherent women's economic agenda so that we are stronger and "the impact of our activities can be better felt."
She said over the past few years the country had seen a proliferation of businesswomen's organisations, some of which had taken on certain sectors.
"These organisations have recognised the increasing business opportunities that are currently available in South Africa; and have attracted women who want to participate in our economy," she said.
The minister explained that government's challenge with such organisations include duplication of services, lack of human and financial capacity, and often poor networking and communication.
"Furthermore some of the organisations are not able to provide the required support to the members, which can affect their long-term sustainability.
"Given the importance of these organisations in assisting businesswomen in a variety of different sectors and their contribution to growing the South African economy, it is not in the interests of the government to see these organisations fail," she said.
The NCWBO's main objective will be to coordinate, facilitate and monitor women's economic empowerment agenda in South Africa and abroad, she said.
It is expected to create a forum to discuss and formulate strategies around common issues affecting the economic status of women in South Africa, promote sharing of intellectual and financial resources amongst women business organisation in South Africa.
The organisation would also lobby and advocate for a positive policy environment that will promote women's economic empowerment, support women's organisation to deliver their services to its members.
"One of our next steps must be to find practical ways of assessing the impact or effectiveness of our policies and programmes, and I believe NCBWO can play a key role in overseeing and monitoring these developments," Ms Hendricks said.
By Zibonele Ntuli - BuaNews