As we celebrate women’s month this August we need to reflect on the progress made in the advancement of women in our country.
The Status of Women in the South African Economy report highlighted the milestones achieved in terms of the advancement of women. The Report identified some areas where society has been successful in enabling women’s participation and contribution in the economy, and others where there is a need for refocused efforts.
The good news is that following the 2014 general election the representation of women in South Africa’s cabinet stands at 43%. However, while progress has been made in the empowerment of women in business, there are still some industries that still need to make progress in women’s empowerment.
It is said that many women in business are still told by society and their peers that their empowerment is harder than their male counterparts. Further to this, female entrepreneurs are told how tough it is for them and what challenges they will face as business owners. How is running a business different from running a home? Just as a business has to budget, manage its cash flow, do administration and develop human capital, so do women who run families. Women have always been in business and they have always been resourceful. It’s time to turn the idea that business is tough for women on its head.
I am pleased that this year’s women’s month focus is on economic empowerment. It is important that we continue to fast track our efforts in bringing about change. I believe that the opportunity created by circular economies and ‘urban mining’ are an untapped financial resource for women with business aspirations. A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each life span.
It is a fact that we are fast running out of natural resources, and the circular economy is no longer optional, it is inevitable. Its implementation will provide our economy with unprecedented opportunities. This provides an opportunity for women to realise their potential within this new economy as the pioneers of a new industry. A new industry, not owned or hindered by historical nuances.
The circular economy approach is not limited to just waste tyres, but can be applied to other industries. Through innovation and cooperation we can double our efforts. Currently, over 190 small businesses, many of them run by women, have started up since REDISA began taking charge of the collection and recycling of waste tyres from the country’s tyre industry within two years. And the beauty of these small businesses is that they are making a living out of waste.
I truly believe that women can become successful entrepreneurs. I would love to see more women in South Africa stepping out and creating opportunities to further develop their communities.