The City of Cape Town’s perspective: Let’s empower!

Councillor Xanthea Limberg is at the top of Cape Town’s list of “power women”. A Mayoral Committee Member for Corporate Services and passionate tech aficionado, Councillor Limberg recently addressed our Space Trek presentation participants as keynote speaker for the event. Read her powerful and inspirational address here:

“I am extremely honoured to be presenting at such an event where there are so many passionate women. Not only is the calibre of young women here today extraordinary, but the work you have all been involved in, continues to amaze me. 

As a public representative for the City of Cape Town, in which this STEM training and development is taking place, I thank everyone of you for positively contributing to not only ensuring that south Africa is building as a sustainable pipeline for mathematicians, scientists and engineers but that women specifically are being encouraged to participate in these fields, as we together continue to drive gender narrative. In each one of our lives, I have no doubt that we have all experienced being put into a box on the basis of one’s gender. I have also no doubt that whether it be in our work, home or religious communities, all of you here today have experienced what it feels like to be considered a lesser human, or lower down on the priority list on the basis of your gender. 

I know from my first-hand experience, in both my educational years and during the course of my political career that marginalisation rings especially true in professional fields of Science, Maths, and Technology. Therefore women ignore the field altogether or compete extremely hard in order to be considered as equally skilled and capable to their male counterparts. I need not remind any of you of the unfortunate fact that for many many decades regardless race, creed or culture, women in South Africa were collectively disadvantaged by a system designed to benefit a very small and elite group of men. As a result, those of us in government today, and post apartheid South Africa, now have to work even harder to bridge not only the economic divides but the invisible divides of prejudice, stereotype and preconception that have a way of creeping in to our personal, business and living spaces as women. 

Because of this the City of Cape Town made its commitment to the principles of equity, and anti discrimination and diversity very very clear. Not only do we have a female premier, Helen Zille, but we also have a female executive mayor, Patricia de Lille. Through their individual strength and resilience, they provide an example of women for women throughout South Africa that notions of gender, and notions of limitations that we attach to gender are psychological constructs. 

As part of our commitment to building a caring society we recognise that there is not a one size fits all solution to addressing the structural disadvantages that we are confronted with. The city has worked hard to provide opportunities for young women from our targeted apprenticeship and bursary programmes that seek to develop females in areas of scarce skills such as engineering, architecture, city planning etc. We continue to make great strides. The City of Cape Town is also taking steps to ensure that women and men who serve in their communities have in their disposal hard tools needed to express themselves as individuals. For this financial year the city is spending over 100 million rand towards our skills development programme which ensures that we’ll empower young generations to capacitate the City of Cape Town. In order to drive this overall strategy, of educating young Capetonians, we have to find 5 pillars of governance to ensure the city of Cape Town is focused on achieving an opportunity city, a well run city, a caring city, inclusive city, and a safe city. 

One of the elements of our well run city is bringing internet to the whole city in order to bridge the digital divide so that those who seek technologically related endeavours, do so without any hindrance. Cape Town is leading the digital divide, leading to digital inclusion of the African continent by our fibre optic broadband rollout plan. And because broadband connectivity, and digital inclusion are fundamental to creating an abling environment for business development, economic growth, social cohesion, our new public wifi project is a prime example of how the private sector, public and government can make progress together. Because government cannot transform communities alone, the city has also partnered with two commercial service providers in order to provide free data to the poorest of the poor in our wireless zones. Now the hairdresser in Langa who wants to advertise her services on Gumtree can do so with ease, and the copywriter in Khayelitsha can use her work email without having to spend money at an internet cafe, and the young candidates of the STEM programme, can participate in a world renowned programme through the assistance of MEDO. All of this has become possible through our digital inclusion projects. In addition to the city has incentivised development opportunities for women, to prioritise our current deficient skills need. 

In conclusion, as a representative of the City of Cape Town’s political administration, I would like to like to emphasise that we are in a variety of ways committed to ensuring that all of our residents have at their disposal, the very basic tools that most of take for granted in order to empower them to climb the ladder of success and achievement. We are committed to ensuring where women like those amongst us today with an interest and aptitude in STEM, that that talent does not go to waste , but is fostered to ensure the development and betterment of future generations to come. I would also like to say because we in government understand the importance of having a feminine energy in this world, we are excited and committed to ensuring  that we support MEDO in expansion of this project and to the participants. I wish you all the very best of luck, I look forward to seeing you grow from strength to strength, and becoming leaders of thought, technology and innovation, to ensure that you can transform the African continent, and the world wide globe.”

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