Women’s Day Message from CG Anne Linnee
August 9, 2021
Sanibonani, my name is Anne Linnee, and I am the Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Durban.
Today, as we commemorate Women’s Day, I want to thank the generations of women who have come before us. Their push for greater rights and opportunities for women of all background has helped create a better world for both our sons and daughters.
Thanks to such trailblazers, I am honored to be one of several women to recently serve as the U.S. Consul General. But even as we see more women in positions of leadership, we know that the struggle for equal rights and opportunity for women and girls still continues at every level.
That is why we at the U.S. Mission are proud to partner with South Africa to support women’s empowerment by investing in health, people-to-people exchanges, and safety for women and girls.
Since launching PEPFAR in 2004, the United States has worked tirelessly with the South African government to ensure that all South Africans have the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives. Yet despite considerable progress in the HIV response, over 800 adolescent girls and young women are still infected with HIV each week in South Africa. That’s why PEPFAR created DREAMS, a public-private partnership launched in 2015, aimed at developing girls into Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe young women. DREAMS addresses the health aspects of HIV infection –– but also the structural drivers that increase HIV risk for young girls, including: poverty, lack of education gender inequality, and sexual violence. And efforts to empower this key age group through DREAMS are working. We have seen year-on-year reductions in new HIV infections among young women ages 15-24 in DREAMS districts in the last several years. Based on this success and the need to invest in the next generation, PEPFAR is planning a significant expansion of DREAMS in the coming year. We expect funding to nearly triple to approximately R1.6 billion, thus giving more young women the tools they need to succeed and make actionable change in their communities.
While we focus on these gains in the health sector, we must also recognize the gains women are making across our society– whether in the home, healthcare, education, business, or government. Understanding the important role women play in creating a healthier and more prosperous society, the United States is working to help South African women reach their full potential through our wide array of educational and professional exchange programs. One such program is the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs or AWE. Currently in its third year, AWE has provided practical training and mentoring to more that 300 promising female entrepreneurs in KZN and across South Africa. Some may not know that Africa leads the world in the number of women business owners. Yet, a recent World Bank report shows that women entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa still earn lower profits than men, in part because of differences in skills, capital, and networks. This is where initiatives like AWE become critically important. Additional programs like TechWomen; which targets professional women in the male-dominated Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields; the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders; and even our Fulbright Scholarship programs also target women leaders in wide range of sectors who are each helping to move South Africa forward in their own way.
Unfortunately, the scourge of gender-based violence continues to present an enormous threat to our progress. And due to the prolonged COVID pandemic — we know many women have been suffering even greater instances of domestic violence and assault. Gender-based violence inherently deprives women of not just an opportunity to reach their full potential but also robs them of social justice — a key component of true democracy. We at the US Mission wholeheartedly agree with the Government of South Africa’s call to end gender-based violence and support civil society groups, community leaders, and law enforcement officials who are working daily to aid and seek justice for women and girls effected by Gender-based violence.
So, what can we do to help? The truth is as women, mothers, daughters, sisters and aunts we cannot stop violence on the basis of gender alone. We need men, fathers, sons, brothers and uncles to stand with us to oppose violence against women and girl, to advocate for women and girls as they would for men and boys, and let the world know that inequality and violence are never acceptable.
Finally, as we continue to celebrate and advocate for women throughout the month of August, let us remember the role each of us can play through our consistent, daily actions to carry us toward a dream of a more equal and just world for us all.