Hon Chairperson, hon Minister, hon members of the NCOP, director-general of the department and officials, ladies and gentlemen, before I start with my speech, let me remind the member from the Western Cape that she is not a member of the executive nor Helen Zille's spokesperson. This debate is not about social development or health. [Laughter.] I just wanted to remind her about that. [Interjections.]
This debate takes place in this historic month of June, which is dedicated to remembering the heroic struggles conducted by the youth of our country against apartheid oppression. The struggle of today's youth are about high unemployment, health issues such as HIV and Aids, lack of skills and economic opportunities, and widespread drug and alcohol abuse. All these affect the quality of life of our youth today and have disastrous consequences for the country's development, both economically and socially.
Although at face value this Budget Vote is about women, children and people with disabilities, in essence its outcomes have a direct bearing and impact on the lives of young people as a whole. The youth form the majority of our country's population, and therefore what gets done for children relates to their future as young people. It is for this reason that in this debate we have to concern ourselves equally with the plight of our youth.
Of all the variables that determine the quality of life of young people, education, skills and job opportunities are central and must get preference. In this context, this year's rallying call of "Job Creation" by the President of the Republic rings true for youth development. Our message from this House to the nation should be: "Let us give priority to our youth for skills development and job creation". The future prosperity of our country is dependent on the amount and quality of the development investment we make towards our youth today, for they are the custodians of that future.
As has been indicated in numerous studies, the biggest challenge facing the youth of today is the high rate of unemployment. Estimates from various studies show that about 73% of all the people who are unemployed in the country are young people. This has to be seen within the context of the estimated total rate of unemployment of between 24% and 35% of the economically active population. The magnitude of youth unemployment has, in turn, exacerbated its associated problems, such as high levels of poverty, increasing rates of underage and youth pregnancies, alcohol and drug abuse, crime, and in recent times, increasing numbers of child-headed households. Youth unemployment has also contributed to an increased number of young people of various vulnerable categories who are now catered for by the social security system to pull them out of the poverty trap.
The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities must take careful steps towards ensuring that women, children and people with disabilities are catered for. There must be no compromise on that, hon Minister. We must give them priority in an imperative for their development.
Human Sciences Research Council reports, international studies and benchmarks have identified the following reasons why we need to focus on women, children and people with disabilities. Their increasing interconnectedness means that they comprise significant local, regional and national constituencies. Creating livelihood opportunities for women, children and people with disabilities helps break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. With human capital as the trading currency, there are long-term socioeconomic benefits for improving the health, education and social capacities of women and persons with disabilities. Five of the eight Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, speak directly of the need to improve the situation of women and people with disabilities. Failure to do so can be disadvantageous for women and people with disabilities.
As the ANC we have historically recognised the important role of women and people with disabilities in society and development. The ANC has always served as a school and training ground for women to be developed in society.
The adoption of the government policy constituted a big step forward in the development of the youth of our country. The framework recommended a number of policy interventions to promote their participation in the economy, enhancing their employability by familiarising them with the expectations and requirements of the world of work by the time they leave the education system.
As we compared provinces with regard to children who are not attending school, we discovered that many children are not at school in the Western Cape, particularly in coloured areas. We call on the department to intensify its working relationship with the Department of Social Development, and to take care of centres that are not resourced, particularly in the rural areas. We also call on the department to check on security measures at such centres in the rural areas, because one finds that certain social activities are taking place there.
Let me take this opportunity to appreciate the fact that employment within the department is fully gender balanced if one looks at the senior managerial position - as opposed to Helen Zille's cabinet, which is mainly composed of men. We need to create an environment that makes women become productive citizens who participate fully in the development of our society. The ANC supports this Budget Vote. Thank you. [Applause.]
The MINISTER OF WOMEN, CHILDREN AND PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Thank you, Chairperson. I would like to thank all the members who have made valuable contributions enriching our debate.
I want to agree with hon Qikane that, indeed, violence against women is a scourge in our country and this is why we have proposed that we set up an advisory council so that we can work together and put together all our resources as NGOs, the relevant government departments, women's organisations and provinces so that each one does not work in their corner in their silo alone. We should all pull together and ensure that we are focused; as in the case of the SA National Aids Council, Sanac, which draws together NGOs and organs of society and government to pull together. And indeed today we are receiving kudos with regard to our response to the HIV/Aids pandemic.
We have seen that the UN reports state that the pandemic is going down worldwide; the pandemic is also going down in South Africa. [Applause.] Very close to us is the transmission from mother to child; we have thousands of babies in South Africa that were born HIV-positive, but because in the past two years we have stepped up the strategy, implementation, prevention and treatment we have seen that transmission come down to 3%. We are still going to continue to work hard to ensure that we fight that scourge. We will be working with Sanac, using their implemented strategies against HIV, and we will use similar strategies to fight the scourge of violence and abuse.
I also want to say that we are promoting inclusive education to ensure that children with disabilities are not marginalised and isolated in our communities, but become part of the mainstream. However, we accept that there are children who are severely disabled; who need special schools. Therefore, we shall also promote those schools in order for those children to gain access to education, medical treatment and be able to grow and realise their full potential as human beings.
On the point of violence, hon members, we are working very closely with the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Department of Police and the National Prosecuting Authority, NPA. We support the Thuthuzela Care Centres. To date we have 28 Thuthuzela Care Centres which have put together a doctor, a counsellor, a social worker, a lawyer, a prosecutor, and a nurse to make sure that this is a one-stop centre where victims come to get counselled, treated for HIV/Aids, unwanted pregnancies and to get advice. If they want to lay a charge there is a lawyer and a prosecutor. We want to have more of these Thuthuzela Care Centres, particularly in the hot spots where there is the highest incidence of violence against women and children. We are also working with the SAPS; they are training police and raising awareness about how they should treat victims of rape and abuse - many of whom are women and children.
We have also seen that they have employed forensic social workers in each of the 176 policing areas. They have also re-established the child protection unit and the family protection unit and they have added these forensic social workers to assist children - because children are not able to give evidence in order to develop a case properly so that there can be a speedy conviction. Through these trained social workers and the Thuthuzela Care Centres, we are able to improve.
They have also been able to deal with those dockets that get lost because they are bought. They make sure that they have copies of these dockets somewhere in a server to ensure that once a docket is lost they develop a new one immediately. As a result, there is no excuse for a case not proceeding.
We are also working on the issue of corrective rape; we believe that this is a crime. These are criminals; nobody has a right to decide anybody's sexual orientation. Women have a right to choose if they want to be lesbian or not. Therefore, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development has taken up this matter. He has set up a task team - our department is part of that task team and members of the gay and lesbian rights groups are represented in that task team - to find ways of dealing with these crimes in a speedy manner and to address the concerns of gays and lesbians regarding this crime.
We are very happy that hon Hartnick and hon Worth respect and recognise Nelson Mandela and Mama Sisulu; they are two of our great leaders. I hope they remember that Nelson Mandela was a member of the ANC Youth League, that he joined the ANC at a very young age and has said he will die in the ANC. Recently he said to Mama Sisulu, "Please send my regards to Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and all my friends in heaven and tell them I am also going to join the ANC branch when I come to heaven." So I would like to invite the hon members to join the ANC. [Applause.] [Interjections.]
I also want to say that Nelson Mandela was the Commander in Chief of uMkhonto weSizwe.
Lastly, hon members, I want to say that we are doing very well as far as the MDGs are concerned. We have reached parity, which is one of the demands for MDG 3, and we have even reached parity in our schools. We have more girls than boys at school in South Africa today. We were expected to reach 50% by 2015, but we have already done better than that; even at tertiary level, we have more girls than boys. I am sure some of them are sitting there upstairs.
The concern we have is that most of them focus on humanities and the arts. We do not have many girls who are doing science, technology and engineering. We have started a project called the Technogirls which is supported by government and Unicef - where we take our girls at Grades 11 and 12 and expose them to the mining industry, computer technology and aeroplanes through Airports Company South Africa, Acsa. Through exposure to that kind of technology, they can begin to have an interest in the sciences and the technological spheres. The project is supported by Unicef and the Departments of Basic Education, Higher Education and Training and our department.
We started in Limpopo, North West and Gauteng, and we are now going to roll out that project in all the provinces.