As part of Women's Month and the centenary of Mama Albertina Sisulu, the Department of Social Development will today launch a women empowerment project at Mawewe Tribal Authority in Mgobodi village, Mpumalanga.

The project aims to empower and secure the livelihoods and rights of women living in rural areas, in the context of sustainable development goals and the current national discourse on women's rights to equitable access to productive land in South Africa.

The launch of the project follows a consultative process involving community dialogues with women and by women in Mawewe and surrounding villages.

Led by Social Development Deputy Minister Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, the project seeks to synergise the department's efforts and partnerships with both public and private entities to generate more lasting and wider scale improvements in the livelihoods and rights of women.

These include training and capacity building, skills development, support to women-led cooperatives to improve access to funding and market opportunities and ensure linkages for rural women and young girl's access to interventions such as prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence.

During community dialogues, women expressed a keen interest in the establishment of a rural tourism enterprise in the area, which lies on the outskirts of the Kruger National Park.

Bogopane-Zulu said the implementation of the project involves a range of bilateral, strategic partnerships and potential financial partners.

"We have partnered with the MTN SA Foundation, the Department of Tourism, the State Information Technology Agency and the Tribal Authority to assist women living in rural areas who are already doing their bit to improve the livelihoods of their families and communities to end the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

"Special Olympics South Africa will also be playing their role to ensure that children and persons with disabilities participate in various sporting activities. Each of the partners will, on the day, pledge their support for the project with the MTN SA Foundation handing over 100 bicycles to learners who travel long distances to get to school," said Bogopane-Zulu.

Social Development has already committed itself to open a White-Door Centre of Hope in Mawewe before the end of 2018. The centre will provide psychosocial and empowerment services to victims of gender-based violence.

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