South Africa will know the state of women in the country when President Jacob Zuma presents the first State of the Women Report on Women’s Day. (Image: WSU)To mark Women’s Day on 9 August, President Jacob Zuma will release South Africa’s first Status of Women Report in Sasolburg, in Free State at the official ceremony for the day.This year, the theme for Women’s Month, observed each August in South Africa, is “Women united in moving South Africa forward”, and festivities are taking place against the backdrop of the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Charter as well as the 61st anniversary of the Women’s Charter. Some 20 000 women from all nine provinces are expected to attend the rally in Free State.“Following the demise of apartheid‚ South Africa has moved towards the advancement of women empowerment and gender parity,” says the government. “This was affirmed at the recent Beijing +20 Country Report, which highlighted South Africa’s human rights-based legislative framework; the institutional mechanisms put in place to promote women’s human rights‚ dignity, empowerment and gender equality; and the achievements in the representation of women in decision-making structures and processes‚ both in the public and private sectors.”ADVANCING WOMEN’S RIGHTSThe report was compiled by the Ministry in the Presidency responsible for Women. It serves as a baseline document for the work to promote the socio-economic empowerment of women and gender equality, and to advance their human rights.South Africa has been trying to advance women’s rights since the demise of apartheid.“Over the years, great strides have been made to ensure that women enjoy the same rights as their male counterparts in relation to education, employment, property, inheritance and justice,” said Phumla Williams, the acting cabinet spokesperson. “Women now enjoy equal rights, as enshrined in the Constitution. South African women have taken their rightful place in parliament, government, the private sector and civil society.”WOMEN STILL AT RISKDespite the measures put in place to protect women, as well as the strides that have been made towards gender equality, women remain vulnerable to social risks such as violence, abuse, rape, unemployment and poverty.“[The] government is aware of the challenges and will continue in its endeavours to protect democracy and women’s rights that were built on the actions of the women of the liberation movement,” Williams said. “[The] government has put in place legislation and policies to create an enabling environment for women, and to improve their participation in income-generating activities in the economy.”Gender equality and women’s empowerment was central to the government’s efforts to combat poverty and stimulate sustainable development.MONTH-LONG ACTIVITIESFestivities marking Women’s Month are aimed at creating awareness and promoting understanding of women’s issues. Activities will be held throughout the country, listed on the websites of the South African government, its communications department, and its Ministry for Women.