Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said the issue of rape culture in South Africa was not exclusive to any one race, adding it was time to tackle the issue head on.
Zille was speaking at a Women's Day commemoration breakfast at the District Six Museum in Cape Town today.
The former DA leader said issues affecting women can't only be addressed by changing women's standing at a high level.
"The quota of women in cabinet is not going to change South Africa. It's a very easy diversion from the real issues affecting 90% of women in the country who are still in abusive relationships with men.
"We need to tackle rape culture head on. This is not a race thing: Patriarchal culture does not affect only certain races. It affects everyone."
Zille also spoke about the four young women who protested at the IEC results in centre in Pretoria on Saturday while President Jacob Zuma was delivering his speech after the official election results were declared.
Protest 'brave'
"The most disgraceful thing was women leaders who criticised the young women who stood up to make a point against rape on Saturday," Zille said.
"I think that the protest last week was very brave, because it gets to the heart of the issues that are oppressing women today in South Africa.
"It spoke about the vulnerability of women and how we as a society must get to a place where it's cool to say 'no' and women are empowered to do so."
The formal part of the breakfast included the reciting of a special Women's Day poem, and was concluded by South African author Dr Sindiwe Magona.
In some of her concluding remarks, Zille said that poverty is by far the biggest challenge South Africa's women face, as it drives many of them into abusive relationships. "The big challenge we face is breaking the cycle of poverty without further entrenching it," she said.
'Women need to educate women'
"Our policy has to be to try to change that. The most important thing we have to do is get women into jobs. They need to get the education they need.
"Women need to educate women. If women have a choice, they don't have to go to abusive relationships if they're able to be economically dependent."
Zilla also bemoaned the "blesser" phenomenon, and criticised some media houses for "celebrating" the term.
"I've been saddened with explanations in different newspapers with how fortunate you would be if you were in one category of blesser versus another.
"The entire phenomenon is completely oppressive of women, especially young women.”
Majority in health system are women
"When you're 16 and 17, you don't see the decades that still stretch ahead of you, when you will no longer be attractive to the blessers, and you'll have no job opportunities and no skills," Zille said.
Western Cape health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said during a round of open questions from the floor that women's health issues need to be dealt with more publicly.
"The majority of my clients in the health system are women.
"We're dealing with a whole range of domestic issues. HIV/Aids is still the second biggest killer. [And] we hear people talking about 'it's culture'.
"We need to take a stand that culture is no longer private - culture is now political."
According to the DA, at least 60% of the Western Cape's health budget was used to treat preventable diseases.