President Jacob Zuma spoke to ANC Women's League members during the Charlotte Maxeke memorial lecture on Saturday in Bloemfontein.
Zuma said each South African should ensure that gender equality was realised.
"Women are the most affected by poverty in South Africa and we must all play an active role liberating them."
He said Maxeke was an activist for children's rights and that citizens should honour her contribution to democracy by protecting the rights of women and children.
"Every South African should play a part in ensuring that inequality and poverty are done away with in the country."
He told league delegates that the country had made progress in ensuring women were in leadership positions, but much more needed to be done.
The president lauded the election of Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the head of the African Union.
He said it was proof that South Africa had made strides in recognising the contribution of women in society.