The Department of International Relations and Cooperation; Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities celebrated International Women’s Day on 8 March 2024 at the offices of DIRCO.

The program was hosted in collaboration with the European Union Delegation in celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.

Programme director, Ambassador M. Dlomo, Deputy Director-General at DIRCO, welcomed Ministers, distinguished guests, and members of the Diplomatic Corps.

As South Africa celebrates its 30 years of democracy, the gathering honored the remarkable achievements of women worldwide, reflected on the progress made, and recommitted to the ongoing pursuit of gender equality.

“History has taught us that when we work together with a common goal, we become impactful and make groundbreaking achievements.”

The highlight of the event was the launch of the South African Gertrude Shope Women’s Mediation Network. Perfectly positioned to further the women’s peace and security agenda, the network will commend the power of dialogue, collaboration, and the invaluable contribution of women in conflict resolution and mediation. The network will recognize the urgent need for diverse perspectives and inclusive approaches in addressing conflicts and building sustainable peace, highlighting ordinary women’s peace-making efforts from the ground up.

The art exhibition titled “I was born a girl” by artist Minna Pietarinen was on display in the foyer in partnership with the Embassy of Finland and UN Women. It honored numerous women, including Zanele Mbeki, one of South Africa’s icons. UN Women was established to accelerate progress in meeting the needs of women and girls worldwide.

Women are the driving force for development. The day’s event included thought-provoking presentations shedding light on the challenges faced by young women and men in society. There was also a roundtable conversation.

Ambassador Gjermund Saether of Norway addressed the audience, stating he had two points to share. Firstly, the struggle for women’s rights needs to continue in all countries and involve both men and women. Everyone should strive to be #heforshe advocates. Secondly, efforts need to be intensified in helping women in areas like Sudan. The Department of International Relations in SA is setting a good example with an increasing number of divisions headed by women and 40% women Ambassadors across SA’s 92 missions (as of 2022). The South African Parliament has 46% women representatives, ranking amongst the top in the world. Today, the Norwegian foreign Ministry comprises 55% women.

Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma congratulated all the women for the special day and went on to say that women have the interest of everyone in society, both men and women. Focusing on the African continent and giving attention to some of those women that have stood out in history, particularly the queens, like the Queen of Sheba of Ethiopia, Queen Nefertiti of Egypt, and Maryam Mohamed Fadel Al-Dah, of Mauritania, who was a great diplomat.

Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Dr. Naledi Pandor addressed the audience and reminded women:

“Never play down our pursuit of socio-economic rights and the enjoyment by many millions in our country, and don’t play down your successes.”

Guests left the event feeling inspired and motivated to celebrate their achievements, no matter how big or small.

by Marion Kate