The ANC-led Gauteng Provincial Government, in partnership with civil society, NGOs and the business community, has launched the “Empower a Girl to Lead” campaign at the Aurora High School in Zola, Soweto on Tuesday. This day marked the first day of Women’s Month in South Africa.

Premier David Makhura, addressing young girls at the launch trumpeted the importance of getting an education.  “The first and greatest investment is education. When you are educated, you do not need a man to depend on,” the Premier said.

The purpose of the campaign was to address the plight of the girl child and young women, which includes teenage pregnancy, increased HIV infection rate, gender based violence, inequality and human trafficking. “This year we have decided not to focus on women in general, but rather highlight and address the plight of girls and young women.

“Although a lot of progress has been made in addressing challenges faced by girls and young women in our province, we still have a long way to go in bridging the inequality gap between girls and boys as boys are treated differently from girls in schools it’s even worse at home,” said Comrade Makhura.

A platform was afforded to the learners to engage Premier Makhura on issues that affect them daily in schools and in their communities. Issues raised included drug and alcohol abuse, homophobia, girls with low self-esteem and the lack of sanitary towels, amongst others.

“Since the government is giving us free food, free condoms, why can’t government give us free sanitary towels to prevent absenteeism from girls during their menstruation cycle?” Asked Mathabo Dladla a learner at the school.

To which Premier Makhura responded, “To all the young girls that come from poor families that cannot afford basic sanitary pads, I have good news for you, the Gauteng province is working together with its partners in ensuring that in the next 2 years starting from now, all girls will have access to free sanitary pads in all public schools in Gauteng”.

He also added that 50% of the bursaries awarded to Grade 12 learners who have demonstrated capability and talent will be awarded to girls. In his response to some of the questions and input by learners, Premier Makhura made it clear that this month, this year, we are going to be talking about empowering the girl child.

Comrade Makhura reiterated the ANC-led government’s commitment to doing everything necessary to respond to the challenges of girls in Gauteng. This commitment also includes focusing attention on boys and how they are brought up. “We will not turn a blind eye on the equally important task of addressing the plight of the boy child and young boys in general”, said Premier Makhura.