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Cablegate: South Africa: 16 Days of Activism Seminar: Is

VZCZCXRO2755
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSA #2618 3561226
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 221226Z DEC 09 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0685
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS PRETORIA 002618

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR S/GWI SABA GORI AND RUTH BENNETT, INL/AAE
LENDSEY SMALLS AND AF/EPS CAMILLE JACKSON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWMN PREL KPAO PHUM ECON AORC SF
SUBJECT: SOUTH AFRICA: 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM SEMINAR: IS
ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT ENOUGH?

REF: STATE 120322

1. (U) Summary: Kicking off South Africa's observance of the
16 Days of Activism, Commissioner for Gender Equality Dr.
Yvette Abrahams led a discussion on the social norms and
material conditions that give rise to gender-based violence
in South Africa. Activists in Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria
participated via digital video conference in the event hosted
by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). Participants
agreed that South Africa suffers from unacceptable levels of
gender-based violence and concurred that an elevated level of
violence in South African society is part of the lingering
legacy of apartheid, but several participants challenged Dr.
Abrahams' contention that economic empowerment for women is
the single most important factor in eliminating gender-based
violence, calling for changes in traditional culture(s) that
allow violence against women and children to continue at
unacceptable levels. End summary.

2. (U) The HSRC hosted a November 27 DVC-linked seminar in
Pretoria to kick-off South Africa's 10th annual observance of
the international 16 Days of Activism to end violence against
women and girls. Commissioner for Gender Equality Dr. Yvette
Abrahams delivered a presentation designed to put the issue
of gender-based violence in a social and economic context.
Abrahams opened with an assertion that one-third of the world
GDP comes from the unpaid labor of women. She said
twenty-nine percent of South African women live on land under
customary ownership, adding that only two percent of South
African women own land. Since South Africa's transition,
according to Abrahams, only 20 to 30 percent of redistributed
land has gone to women, despite the fact that eighty percent
of agricultural labor in South Africa is done by women.
Abrahams noted that unemployment is 30.8 percent for women in
South Africa, compared to 21.1 percent for men. She said
women-headed households are twice as likely to go hungry as
men-headed households. According to Abrahams, the economic
empowerment of women is the single most important factor in
the elimination of violence against women and girls.

3. (U) During the Q & A session, several participants
challenged Abraham's assumptions, claiming that improvements
in material conditions for women in South Africa since the
transition have not reduced the incidence of gender-based
violence (GBV). Several participants noted that GBV is
prevalent even among highly educated South Africans. One
participant suggested that more work is needed to study the
role of women in traditional cultures. Another participant
said that GBV is as much a problem among white South Africans
as among blacks. Abraham agreed with participants who
observed that high levels of violence in society became
normalized under apartheid, and all agreed that it may take a
generation for South Africa to reduce the level of violence
in society.

4. (SBU) Asked by an NGO participant why South Africa
initially objected to the establishment of a UN Special
Rapporteur on Gender-Based Violence, Abrahams said she had
been astonished to learn that South Africa had opposed the
measure. She commented that South Africa's PERMREP should be
voting in a manner that is consistent with South Africa's
constitution, and she commented that she assumed the vote was
taken without instructions from Pretoria. (Note: South
African Activist Rashida Manjoo was appointed UN Special
QAfrican Activist Rashida Manjoo was appointed UN Special
Rapporteur on Violence Against Women in August 2009, lending
credence to Abrahams' suggestion that a vote opposing the
mandate may have been a glitch. End note).

5. (SBU) Comment: The sparsely attended HSRC seminar was one
of the key events marking South Africa's 2009 observance of
the 16 Days of Activism, along with government press releases
and announcements on government websites. There is a core of
activists in South Africa who remain engaged full-time on
combating violence against women and children, but there is a
still a long way to go before the awareness and activism
results in widespread change in a society still handicapped
by unacceptable levels of violence, especially against women
and girls. End comment.
GIPS

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