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Johannesburg – Mineral Resources Minister Advocate Ngoako Ramatlhodi has encouraged the mining industry to advance women’s rights and equal participation in the economy.

“That is the only way we can truly eradicate the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment,” Minister Ramatlhodi said.

He was speaking on Thursday at the Women in Mining Conference in Johannesburg which was aimed at addressing occupational challenges faced by women in the industry, including safety and security.

“Women should fully participate in this important sector that has the potential to grow South Africa’s economy and thus improve the lives of all,” Minister Ramatlhodi said.

The Department of Mineral Resources promotes women participation throughout the mining industry from general workers right up to women in executive positions.

“We continuously encourage the industry to implement legislation that will protect and advance the cause of women,” Minister Ramatlhodi said.

He said his department had adopted a number of strategies aimed at opening up the mining sector to previously disadvantaged individuals, especially women.

Minister Ramatlhodi said women in the mining sector also faced challenges that require all stakeholders to work together in order to create a conducive workplace for women.

Organised Labour representative Phumeza Mgenge highlighted some of the challenges faced by women in the mining sector which included sexual harassment, fatalities, injuries and body protection gear that is too tight for women.

Mgenge said women were viewed as sexual objects and the sector did not cater for women.

She encouraged women to educate themselves so they could be employed in executive positions in a sector which is historically male dominated.

“We need to develop implementable results that will transform the industry and increase investment in line with the goals of the National Development Plan,” he said.

Minister Ramatlhodi said South Africa had made great strides since 1994 in improving the status of women.

Prior to 1994, the South African Parliament had 2.7percent representation of women, after the first democratic elections, women representation in the National Assembly stood at 27.7percent.

In 1999 the figure rose to 30percent and then to 32.7percent in 2004. After the 2009 general elections, women representation reached 42percent and currently women comprise of 41percent of the cabinet. –Sanews.gov.za

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