The Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) and the South African Women in Construction & Built Environment (SAWIC & BE) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), on 8 March, aimed at advancing the participation of women in the social housing sector.

From left - Ms Kile Mteto, SAWIC & BE President, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, SHRA Chairperson and Acting CEO SHRA Ms Mpolai Nkopane. Photo by ©SAAH - Rory Macnamara

From left – Ms Kile Mteto, SAWIC & BE President, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, SHRA Chairperson and Acting CEO SHRA Ms Mpolai Nkopane. Photo by ©SAAH – Rory Macnamara

The signing of the MoU was held at the SHRA office, in Johannesburg, on International Women’s Day. Various stakeholders and partners attended the event and highlighted the importance of the initiative between SHRA and the SAWIC & BE.

Also discussed was the overall value of women empowerment in South Africa, the value of collaboration between different stakeholders, including government and financial institutions, and working together to emancipate women in country. The key partners in attendance included the National Empowerment Fund (NEF); Women of South Africa (WOSA); and the Black Business Council (BBC).

SHRA’s Sector Development and Transformation Specialist, Dudu Phoswa, explained that the aim of the MoU is to advance the transformation agenda within the social housing sector by empowering women to lead and manage accredited Social Housing Institutions and other delivery agents. Further, they will be empowered to deliver strategically located quality homes as developers, contractors, suppliers and service providers.

The MoU will be practically implemented and measured through a cooperation plan that clearly outlines activities and timeframes that will be implemented as part of the partnership. Phoswa explains that this is what makes the MoU unique. Each stakeholder is accountable and will be measured on their directives.

The MoU has five strategic areas of focus referred to as projects; and has already identified an annual work plan for 2021/22. The objectives of the different projects range from supporting members that have already been accredited or have accredited projects; working with SAWIC & BE on the roll-out based on membership requirements; ongoing awareness sessions; establishing an online portal to facilitate trade between members and grant recipients; and the establishment of a task team to meet regularly and measure performance.

SHRA chairperson Bathabile Dlamini stressed that all sectors in the economy stand to benefit when women are an integral part of all activities as equals in the conceptualisation and implementation of economic activities. “It is pleasing that the work that is done by the SHRA in implementing the Social Housing Programme, under the Department of Human Settlements, and is aligned with the United Nations Global Compact and United Nations Women’s seven principles of adoption for all organisations.” She emphasised that opening up the sector for women to participate means that the SHRA will have to simplify its application processes so that they do not become a barrier to entry. She further added that the SHRA aims to hand hold each client through the processes and meet each one at the level they are at. This, she said, will ensure that as the SHRA delivers, they will take women along with them so that they can rise.

Hlengiwe Makhathini, NEF Division Executive for Venture Capital and Corporate Finance, said that it was great that different organisations of government are working towards the objective of enabling women to be emancipated financially.

“We remain committed to building South Africa brick by brick. The NEF will remain a refuge and bastion for the economic empowerment of black women. We are committed to taking this important agreement forward, through innovative funding of black women in construction, and across the value chain of the sector and its allied industries. SAWIC & BE can take comfort in the knowledge that construction is the NEF’s largest funded sector, with investments in excess of R785-million, which comprises 14.41% of our total invested portfolio.”

BBC vice-president Nkuli Bogopa commended the SHRA and SAWIC & BE on the MoU. “With the BBC Women Alliance, we have strategic partnerships with various stakeholders, including the Ministry for Women and People Living with Disabilities. We recognise that this is a key ministry in the Office of the Presidency through which we can monitor and evaluate the performance of the other Ministries. The expectations that we have, through the programme we have established, is that there is no less than 40% representation of women across various establishments, including the public sector and State-owned enterprises. So, we will hold SHRA accountable in this regard and we are hopeful that women will also be represented across SHRA’s leadership structure.”

This sentiment was echoed by Kile Mteto, the CEO of SAWIC & BE, who explained that women continue to be marginalised in the built environment, particularly in the property sector. “My firm belief is that when women are supported and guided, they can take a country forward.” She also advocated for the formation and strengthening of relationships with stakeholder networks beyond the MoU in light of inequality being prevalent across South Africa.

Dr Sibongile Vilakazi, spokesperson for WOSA, said that partnerships are a significant driver in changing in the livelihoods of women. “We say that women remain at the tail end of any development. But through great efforts, as with this MoU signed today, we will start seeing the results in changing the landscape of women empowerment. We hope that this MoU, the partnerships, and the value chain created here today, are replicated across the economy. This a huge success.”