Women are in the majority amongst those who have not benefited economically from the freedoms that have been bestowed upon South Africa from the growth of its economy.
That's according to Sandra Botha, MP for the DA, speaking at the Women in IT breakfast hosted by Microsoft.
Botha questions how this can still be the case: "You may point out that SA has one of the most liberal constitutions in the world, protecting us from any form of discrimination on the basis of a host of ascribed attributes, nut particularly on the basis of gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation and birth.
"You may even mention that we have a government that actively promotes the rights of women by ensuring the representation of women on all levels of government.
"You may point to the fact that we have an employment equity and affirmative action regime that promotes the employment of women as part of the designated groups who was formerly discriminated against under apartheid.
"Finally, you may also counter that it could be impossible that women could still be economically excluded, given the fact that we have a vast skills development regime in place that purports to give special consideration to women through a number of initiatives – from the Join Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA) at the top, down to any of a number of SETA that dot the occupational training landscape in SA.
"The reason why so many women are still not taking their rightful place in our economy despite these measures, is because these measure still fall far short when it comes to implementation," says Botha.
"In terms of gender the effects are as follows: firstly, that those women who came from positions of advantage in terms of skills and knowledge and social, economic and political connectedness continue to reap the benefits over and over again, while women who are not connected or educated continue to languish in poverty.
"Secondly, those women who are appointed for the sake of their gender, rather than their competence, will never be truly empowered, nor will they advance the empowerment of their still-disenfranchised sisters, and are much likelier to be manipulated by their often-male organisational superiors for other purposes.
"And thirdly, quotas, where they are employed, are almost never as enthusiastically utilised to ensure that women have the same access to education and other development opportunities as men – especially in rural areas, and especially in areas that are traditionally male-dominated.
"Finally, it is also worth mentioning women are being left in the lurch by a lack of service delivery in crucial areas outside of skills development and education. The provision of quality health care, water and sanitation to rural and poor women is one such area in which the government is failing to deliver,:" she adds.
"Of this, the recent deaths of more than 140 babies in the Ukhahlamba district in the rural Eastern Cape due to illness contracted from the drinking water and the inability of the local hospitals to treat the affected babies, is a tragic and to my mind, preventable example.
"Given very basic knowledge, women could have identified the problems which confounded them and identified the action needed.
"The empowerment of women should start at community level to see that education and knowledge transferral is provided in communities where women live, whether they be urban or rural, and that they can be aware of such opportunities and access them on an equal footing with the men with whom they share their communities.
"I believe we have not scratched the surface of what can be done in ABET and that there is huge opportunity through the use of computers and television education and through the development of the necessary software to educate people in necessary life skills.
"Also, on the practical level, Women in IT can contribute dramatically by mentoring a school, or adopt- a -school, in the rural areas, assisting with equipment, whether computers or TV, and the essential skills to make use of these aids for educational purposes.
"It is kind of easy to supply the machines, but it is money in the water if it is not accompanied by training, following up on the progress made in using the resources and good security. I have seen 20 computers behind locked doors, never used, at a rural school, because of fear of abuse.
"Of course, it is up to government to make sure that the cost of communications becomes such that these initiatives don't become white elephants because the recipients can't afford the cost of Internet or telephone connections.
"The true empowerment of women should start with an educational regime that ensures that our girl children understand that they can be anything that they want to be, and that they will be able to pursue their dreams without fear or favour."
Botha concludes: "The true empowerment of South African women will only be complete if they are able to identify with positive role models in their chosen fields."
Women in IT is a networking forum for women in the IT industry and has a bursary and mentorship programme that aims to create insight, opportunity, growth and development for women within the information technology sector.
Funded through corporate sponsorship by Axiz, Bytes Technology Group, Fujitsu Siemens, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft and Verizon, Women in IT creates formal and informal networks between women IT students, tertiary institutions, South African IT professionals and corporates.