Speech By The National Development Agency Ceo, Mrs Thamo Mzobe At The Elevate Women Conference. 31 August 2018, Harare, Zimbabwe
We gather today here at the Elevate Women conference at an interesting time in history. We gather in the 21 century, where we have access to more information than we have ever had in the history of human existence, at a time when technology is at an advanced stage and knowledge is just a click away, at a time in history where women have worked hard to develop society and proved to be the backbone of development. With all these advances and so much for us to celebrate as humankind, I am saddened by the reality that women continue to be the face of poverty particularly in the African context.
My name is Thamo Mzobe and I am a woman, therefore the desire to see a better Africa where poverty and inequality does not dictate the lives of our people and be personified through the reality of women comes natural to me. I have dedicated my entire adult life to the development sector and continually engaging civil society to promulgate strategies and programmes that will improve the lives of women and broader society.
I currently serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the National Development Agency (NDA), a South African government agency that has been tasked with the responsibility of poverty eradication in South Africa. In South Africa, we continue to face the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Unfortunately, this reality affects more women than men not only in South Africa but also throughout Africa and even here in Zimbabwe.
We continue to grapple with these challenges, which have become a central focus of all democratic administrations. The National Development Plan (NDP) in South Africa affirms that South Africa has the potential and capacity to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality. This, however, requires a particular approach, moving away from a passive citizenry of receiving services from the state to one that systematically includes the socially and economically excluded, particularly women, where people are active champions of their own development, and where Government can work effectively to develop people’s competences to lead the lives they desire.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu once expressed that “If we are going to see real development in the world, then our best investment is women.” This is a profound statement by the Archbishop, which is a school of thought that I subscribes to. I raised the notion that women are the face of poverty in Africa and are the most affected by the socio-economic triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, therefore, it cannot be that in our response to poverty we do not place women in the centre of programmes and initiatives to alleviate poverty.
The mandate of the NDA, of which I am very proud to lead, is derived from the National Development Agency Act, 1998. In terms of this Act, the primary objective of the NDA is to contribute towards the eradication of poverty and its causes by granting funds to Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) for the purposes of:
Carrying out projects or programmes aimed at meeting development needs of poor communities; and
Strengthening the institutional capacity of other CSOs involved in direct service provision to poor communities.
In all the years, I have been in development I have realised how women have been in the forefront of civil society. Their work in civil society has not been just for the emancipation of women but largely for the development of communities in various scales. Therefore, CSOs play a critical role in the development of our communities and we find women in the centre of all of that labour being done in those very communities. It is for this reason that as the NDA we have taken a strategic approach to development by ensuring we also prioritise CSOs that are led by women because we realise that will be the fastest route for us to achieve the vision of “a poverty free South Africa.” I am confident this would be the case for all development initiatives by CSOs throughout the continent.
One of the major issues that often creates challenges for CSOs is the cultural limits and patriarchal ideology regarding the role of a woman. The role of the woman in the modern and advanced society I described in my introduction differs very little with the ancient ideology. I want to argue that the patriarchal culture continues to be strongly embedded in the systems that even within the CSOs; women are still faced with a lot of hostility when it came to leadership. Women in the CSOs are often been pushed to handle issues regarding gender, education and health while other major development issues like economic and policy advancement are left to the men. In the 21st century, we are still fighting to prove we have the capacity and capability to do what needs to be done. Sometimes even better than men.
As the NDA we continue to commit ourselves to facilitate, the capacitating of women owned and led CSOs into formal entities, provide institutional capacity building and technical training, provide grants with the aim of strengthening their capacities and facilitate linkages to markets for their products and services. This will allow us to have women in the forefront of this war against poverty and also channel in skills that will promulgate key strategies for us to develop our communities and by so doing improve the lives of our people.
We cannot be naïve to believe that this is an easy task but with strong and well-coordinated efforts to advance women leadership for development, we can indeed attain “a poverty free society”. It is therefore critical for us as women leaders within the region to ensure our mission is to mobilise financial, human and material resources to support initiatives and CSOs for transformation and development led by African women. Some of our activities will include capacity building, lobbying and advocacy, awareness creation, civic education, technical training, networking and alliance building.
The task ahead of us is not easy but we as women leaders need to do whatever it takes to advance our work with CSOs. Society is waiting on CSOs to advance socio-economic development for our region and the broader continent to win this war against the triple socio-economic challenges I have described. The reality is that CSOs need women leadership in order to attain this vision. Us being here today having these discussions is the right start but cannot be all the effort we are willing to put forward. Let us put together strategic alliances as leaders and achieve our common goal of a developed Africa.
I thank you,
Ms Judy Hermans, Board Chairperson of National Development Agency at the Masisizane Early Childhood Development Centre, Kwa-Maphumulo Village on 06 August 2018
Honourable Deputy Minister of Energy, Ambassador Ms Thembisile Majola
Honourable Deputy Minister of Social Development, Ms Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu
KZN MEC for Social Development, Mrs Weziwe Thusi
Mayor of Maphumulo Local Municipality, Cllr Zibuyisile Khuzwayo-Dlamini
Mayor of Ilembe District Municipality, Cllr Siduduzo Gumede
Councillors of both Ilembe District and Maphumulo Municipalities.
Representatives of SANEDI led by Acting CEO, Dr Thembakazi Mali
Colleagues from all other government departments
Representatives of the House of Traditional Leaders
Distinguished elderly guests, parents and staff of Masisizane and Sigcawu Early Childhood Development Centres
Ladies and Gentlemen
Sanibonani nonke (Zulu greeting)
Our primary mandate at the National Development Agency (NDA) is to contribute towards the eradication of poverty and its causes. This is a mammoth task, one that we have had to dissect and decide on areas that we should focus on so that we could make an impact, however big or small.
Ladies and gentlemen, the NDA provides development grant funding to civil society organisations (CSOs) that implement integrated and sustainable community-driven programmes such as Masisizane Early Childhood Development Centre. We focus on mobilising and building the capacity of formalised CSOs, resource mobilisation as well as linking CSOs towards sustainable markets.
The gathering here today, is one that fills us with pride as it provided a platform to complete our development cycle. Upon hearing of the plight and determination of the women that started a communal care-taking and feeding programme, we responded to their call by helping to establish an early childhood development centre, that would not only care for children, but one that would focus on the holistic development of children.
We granted funds to Masisizane to the value of R1 176 245.94 (one million, one hundred and seventy-six thousand, two hundred and forty-five hundred and ninety-four cents). These funds were used to build the centre’s infrastructure, it went towards the training of practitioners and board members, purchasing of furniture and learning materials. We continue to provide capacity-building interventions to this centre, which was linked, to The South Africa National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI) through our South African Early Childhood Development Awards, which reward ECD centres of excellence in all provinces.
The Department of Energy’s “Working for Energy” programme has been instrumental to the functioning of this centre to the benefit of the parents and community. Renewable energy is not only futuristic but also significantly enhances the operations and efficiencies of centres such as this one.
I would like to applaud also the role played by the municipalities; it is the NDA’s goal to foster good relations with all the municipalities across the country. This partnership is exemplary of what is achievable when we put our heads together.
In terms of contributing towards laying a good foundation for future generations and curbing generational poverty, the NDA has historically contributed in the ECD space through establishing food security sites in ECDs; strengthening institutional, leadership and management capacity and improving infrastructure of ECD sites in South Africa’s poorest communities; and we continue to do so.
I would like to take this opportunity to further encourage government, private sector and individuals here to join us in laying great foundations for South Africa’s children. We can all contribute towards our shared futures by adopting an ECD next to where we operate or live. Let us make it our goal, to enable as many children as possible to get a good foundation that will benefit them throughout their life-long learning.
In closing and in remembrance of Tata Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu – both advocates of children’s rights and education, I would like to remind you of the quote “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.