By Lulama Nare
There is a need to change the socialization of society if we are to root out the abuse of women and children in society. Twenty-three-years into democracy and 61 years since the historic women’s march to the Union Buildings, the struggle for equality for South African women remains far from over.
Whilst many milestones have been gained over the course of time since the dawn of democracy, thanks to policies championed by the ANC-led government, to advance the rights of women, including the replacement of oppressive legislation with progressive ones and the introduction of state institutions in support of constitutional democracy such as such as the Commission for Gender Equality, the journey to an equal society is still long.
The recent incidents of gender-based-violence (gbv) that seem to continue unabated are not just a stark reminder of the mammoth task that still lies ahead of us but they pose a real threat to the full realization of a national democratic society as was envisioned by the courageous women of the 1956 generation, such as Mme Ruth Mompati, Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi, Albertinah Sisulu and many other others.
In particular, the reporting and coverage of femicide murders is becoming a daily routine in both print and electronic media. Femicide is a global phenomenon and South Africa is not an exception especially to intimate partner killings. What do we understand by intimate Femicide? The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes intimate femicide as “intentional murder of women and girls”. These killings are usually committed by intimate partners or ex-partners, and involve abuse at home.
Other kinds of femicides according to WHO are honour killings (involving a girl or woman being killed by a male or female family member for an actual or assumed sexual or behaviour transgression, including adultery, sexual intercourse or pregnancy outside marriage etc); dowry-related femicide (linked to cultural practices of dowry, It involves newly married women being killed by in–laws over conflicts related to dowry, such as bringing insufficient dowry to the family) and non-intimate femicide (committed by someone without an intimate relationship with the victim). Studies by both the Medical Research Council (MRC) and WHO point to the violent nature of these relationships, which includes sexual violence.
The fact that men continue to be perpetrators of acts of violence against women and children points to the need to change our socialization methods to ensure that we bring up a boy child that will be caring, respects women, girls and human life in general. Socialization processes should include amongst other things addressing issues of patriarchal tendencies and power. Critical social institutions like schools, church, traditional authorities and families should play a greater role in tackling these issues head on and help transform societal attitudes and mind-sets that continue to be reinforced daily through cultural practices, tradition, religion and the media.
It is clear that the education campaigns and programmes such as the 16 Days of Activism have not been adequate to deal with these issues. A new approach that will focus on ensuring that survivors of violence are educated on support services available to them such as safe houses and also targeting perpetrators to open their eyes to the wrongness of their actions and available programmes to assist them to overcome their destructive behaviour is needed. Correctional services programmes on anger management and sexual offenders programme could be utilized to educate perpetrators about their gruesome actions.
The health care system should play a more active role in the prevention of femicide cases by ensuring that health practitioners are more sensitive to victims of gender based violence, after all, research has proven that women who end up becoming victims of femicide do seek the assistance of health practitioners along the way.
Whatever reasons there could be, femicide is unjustifiable. The solution to these kinds of barbaric murders is to educate families about the respect of human rights and foster implementation of criminal justice laws including giving perpetrators long sentences.
For us to achieve a truly free society where women do not live under a cloud of fear for their lives we need to heed the words of President Nelson Mandela in his first State of the Nation Address in 1994 when he stated that “Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression… Our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.”
Lulama Nare is the Commissioner of the Commission for Gender Equality
By Naledi Pandor
Women’s month provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our progress towards full gender equality in South Africa. It is a time to celebrate the progressive policy framework that we have put in place to support transformation in South Africa, while acknowledging the challenges that remain.
Today, South Africa has achieved a level of gender equality that has only been accomplished in other countries after many decades of democracy. Our cabinet and legislatures are among the top ten most representative in the world. Four in ten cabinet ministers are women and four in ten national MPs are women. In school girls have equal access to education and are performing at improved levels in many subjects. In higher education women number more than half of the student body. Women make up almost four in ten of the Senior Management Service in the public service and overall women comprise more than half of employees in the Public Service.
Yet the evidence of continuing gender inequality in some of our key institutions of governance and in the private sector clearly indicates that a great deal more has to be done.
How do we in the ANC plan to strengthen women’s participation in decision-making? Women’s participation and leadership in decision-making is of critical importance, both in terms of justice and equality and because the active presence of women has been shown to put gender-specific concerns on the agenda and encourage the monitoring of the implementation of related policies and programmes. Participation is about more than just how many women are present in decision-making forums; it is about the effective articulation of issues that matter to different groups of women. Enabling women’s participation, however, should not lead to women being the only ones responsible for prioritising gender equality concerns. All decision makers, women and men, must take responsibility.
The ANC has put in place an overarching framework for women’s empowerment and gender equality, developed in 2000 by the former Office on the Status of Women (OSW) in the Presidency. In 2009 the OSW was integrated into the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD). In 2014 the DWCPD became the Ministry of Women in the Presidency.
The National Policy Framework for Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality provides the closest possible platform for gender mainstreaming in the country. The central goal of the policy framework is to achieve gender equality through two policy strategies, namely: women empowerment; and gender mainstreaming. The national policy framework mandates the ministry to be the national coordinating structure at the apex of the gender machinery in the country. The policy framework further tasks ministry to set up a gender management system on the basis of which all institutions charged with women empowerment and gender equality will account.
Therefore, gender focal points in various national line-function Departments and Provincial offices are to account to their respective Ministers and Premiers as well as to the Minister on progress in relation to women empowerment and gender mainstreaming.
In addition, there are other laws that seek to address inequality in the country, such as the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (PEPUDA), 2000; and the Employment Equity Act, 1998. However, these laws deal with equality/inequality in a broad sense. For example the PEPUDA deals with all forms of inequality and prohibit all forms of discrimination: race, gender, disability, age, ethnic origin, religious belief. These are laws implementing the equality clause in the Bill of Rights. Studies and our own experience reveal a gap between the existence of rights and their implementation especially for the benefit of poor and rural women.
The 2017 policy conference implicitly asked for a focussed attention on the following issues:
- Building a broad national women’s movement;
- Strengthening the gender machinery in government;
- Ensuring that gender is integrated in all aspects of ANC policies and programmes;
- Action against violence against women and maintenance violations; and
- Calling for a gradual review of all discriminatory customs, traditions and other practises that are oppressive to women.
However the struggle is far from over and in some instance there is a backlash against the advances that we have made. For instance, the high level of violence against women, especially domestic, may well be part of men’s resistance to change. We have not as yet gone far in acknowledging and addressing women’s unpaid labour. Sexist attitudes in our society and even within the democratic movement still lag far behind the equality we want. The result is that more women than men are unemployed and women-headed households are generally poorer than men-headed households.
Very wide gaps still exist in ensuring gender mainstreaming in all ANC policies. It’s up to the Women’s League to lead the ongoing struggle for ANC equality policies at home and at work.
Cde Naledi Pandor is a member of the ANC NEC and NWC
By Andiswa Mosai
2017, marks the 61st anniversary of the 1956 women’s march to the Union Buildings when women protested against the pass laws which among other things restricted their freedom of movement in the country of their birth. The country that they called their home.
These were difficult times that women today should not to forget as they ponder their future in contemporary South Africa where women are faced with a combination of similar and totally different challenges.
The democratic government led by the ANC declared August as women’s month in recognition and acknowledgement of the contributions made by women of our country towards the attainment of the freedoms we enjoy today.
The struggles pursued by over 20 000 women during the 1956 march and beyond, confirms that women are and have always been an integral part of our societies. Hence Basotho say: “BoMme ba tshwara thipa ka bohaleng”.
This month we celebrate the lives and times of those who gave of themselves to build a future without the challenges such as those they were faced with. These were women of worth, women who sacrificed the luxury and comfort of their homes and faced the dusty and windy month of August in 1956 for the betterment of the lives and women’s rights we enjoy today.
This year’s women’s month coincides with the similarly important historical celebration of centenary anniversary of the birth of our struggle icon Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo.
period in the struggle for human and women’s rights in our country. This period coincides with the
President OR Tambo was hailed by many as an ardent advocate for the struggle for human a rights, a fighter, defender and protector of women’s rights. In his honour and acknowledgement of his contributions in the attainment of the women’s rights and the democracy we enjoy today, our government has since declared this year, The Year of OR Tambo and called upon all of us to work together in fostering unity among all South Africans.
As women, we remember OR Tambo by, among other things, the remarks he made addressing the Conference of the Women’s Section of the ANC in Luanda in September 1981, where he said:
”The mobilisation of women is the task, not only of women alone, or of men alone, but of all of us, men and women alike, comrades in struggle. The mobilisation of the people into active resistance and struggle for liberation demands the energies of women no less than of men”.
OR Tambo believed that women have similar responsibilities as men in ensuring that our country was liberated from the bondages of apartheid and racism which confronted women and majority of our people.
Our government has since declared that the 2017 Women’s Month Celebrations will take place under the theme ““The Year of OR Tambo: Women united in moving South Africa forward..” This is a visionary statement which given the current challenges facing women in our country today, it is imperative we heed as a clarion call by government.
Women need to come together in the fight against women abuse, gender inequality and patriarchy wherever they are found. We must be the champions of our goals and aspirations. We must collectively work towards ensuring that the discourse about women emancipation and development provides for our mainstream participation in the economy and decision-making processes.
When we continue interrogating and assessing the level of progress made by our government and its agencies tasked with women development and empowerment, ours must not just be about ensuring that critical platforms of decisions making and influence are filled up with women.
Our goal must be a combination of various programme oriented factors which give true effect to women empowerment. These include but not limited to the following:
- Working together through women formations and all other key stakeholders towards the attainment of the 50/50 representation in all positions of influence and decision making.
- Ensuring that women are afforded similar capacity building opportunities as their male counterparts.
- Ensuring that women are drivers of transformation and agents of change on matters that affect them and the general populace
- Spearheading campaigns and programmes advocating women’s rights
- Ensuring that women developmental issues find expression in the integrated development planning processes of government and finally,
- Ensuring that government service delivery programmes take into consideration the socio-economic issues of women and their need for them to incorporated in economic development
This can be achieved by among others, through various women formations and in our individual capacities, working together with our government and its agencies in ensuring that women developmental and empowerment issues find expression in service delivery planning processes.
The responsibility is now left with us, the current generation of women, to continue with the fight against the barbaric and very brutal acts of abuse and killings of women and children in our communities and the country at large. While calling on the entire society to unite in fighting gender-based violence, we must be the loudest in condemning the killing of women and children in our country.
We must foster working relations with men as we continue to encourage them to stand up and declare that, these barbaric acts, gender violence and children abuse are not in their name.
Just like the 1956 women did to the apartheid government, we must all stand up and say enough is enough. While we must agree that there is good reason to celebrate during the 2017 Women’s Month period, we must as well accept that there is more to be done in order to address these challenges besieging our communities.
The National Development Plan (NDP), South Africa’s vision towards 2030, makes particular commitments in relation to women’s rights and related issues in a number of sections. Women formations all over the country, especially those that are working closely with communities on the ground must work together in ensuring the achievement of the National Development Plan.
Of particular interest must be to ensure that every one of the six priorities stipulated in the NDP which include uniting South Africa around a common programme and re-committing to the values of the Constitution, one being non-sexism, is achieved. The NDP recognises that discrimination, patriarchal attitudes and poor access to quality education persists.
We must continuously teach our girls and young women not to allow themselves to be treated as perpetual dependents whose responsibilities are confined to the kitchen. Similarly, we must work together with our male counterparts in ensuring that they understand this too.
Young women must know that going to school and attaining a qualification which prepares them for entry in the job market must be the first thing they do if we are to be the champions of our struggles as women.
Our young girls and women in general should grow up knowing that the struggle for 50/50 gender parity cannot just be attained if we do not believe that women should work just as hard as men for us to be regarded as equal in all we aspire in life. Resilient and robust women to the front!
Comrade Andiswa Mosai is the Chairperson of the ANC and ANC WL Lebohang Mahata branches in Midvaal, Sedibeng Region, Gauteng
By Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma
August month, like the month in 1956 that we celebrate each year, has become a hype of women’s mobilization and a festival of ideas on how to advance the struggles against patriarchy and create a better life for all.
The evidence of the positive impact of equality for half the world’s population is becoming overwhelming. When South Africa adopted its own Constitution twenty-one years ago, we cast in stone our commitment to a non-sexist country, for all to be equal before the law.
As we therefore assess the promise of our Constitution, we must debate what more needs to be done to speed up the realization of this promise of true equality.
The need to speed up efforts to emancipate girls and women is being recognized globally. The United Nations in 2015 concluded that at current pace, it will take us another 70 years to reach gender equality. Thus, a recent International Monetary Fund study on Gender Budgeting in G7 countries recognized that whilst there have been overall improvements in the status of women and girls, significant gaps and exceptions remained. This is in the face of ‘ample demonstration’ of the “macroeconomic gains resulting from gender equality and women’s participation in the labor market.”
Gender budgeting, a key pillar of the 1995 Beijing Platform of Action, is defined as the “use of fiscal policy and fiscal administration to advance gender equality and women’s development.” The policy side looks at taxes and expenditure to increase women’s incomes, and participation in the economy and labour market, access to assets, improve family benefits and subsidize child-care. From a tax perspective, this as a rule includes abolishing taxes that see (married) women’s incomes as “secondary” and more recently tax breaks for single parents.
Australia was the first country to introduce gender budgeting, followed by South Africa (as a civil society initiative), Uganda and Tanzania. Today, many African countries have adopted some form of gender-budgeting. The South Africa civil society programme, called the Women’s Budget Initiative (WBI) ran from 1996-1999. The WBI championed gender disaggregated statistics, and programmes focusing on women (2).
However, although women’s empowerment is an overarching policy goal of the South African government since 1994, gender budgeting has not been integrated as a policy instrument.
What is interesting in the current debate about Gender budgeting is the focus on the institutional framework for gender-responsive fiscal policy. It recognizes the need for explicit gender budget statements and auditing. For example, in the budget of the South African Police Services, how does the department seeks to advance gender equality in the allocation of its resources – the composition of its personnel, towards combatting gender-based violence, and so forth?
The aim of gender budgeting as a tool in the end is to ensure gender equality, using fiscal tools. Thus, it needs to be integrated throughout government, in all departments. Gender equality requires interventions in the economy to facilitate women’s access to jobs, capital, assets, professional and managerial positions, as well as subsidized childcare, maternity leave and equal pay for equal work. This is a key component of economic transformation.
As we therefore discuss infrastructure development, the development of the maritime economy, agriculture and land reform, mineral beneficiation, we must use the instrument of gender-budgeting to ensure that women are not left behind.
We can learn from other countries. During the term of Minister Ngozi Okonjo Iweala as Finance Minister of Nigeria, she used the budgets target of at least 30% of the fiscus towards women, to reward departments that reach this goal. The departments of Health, Agriculture, Public Works, Communications and Technology, and Water Resources were further singled out, given their impact on women’s lives. In Agriculture, for example, a programme of training and to give women farmers’ access to technology and finance to buy inputs was introduced and in Public Works, 1500 women trained in road maintenance. (4)
In Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania, where gender-budgeting and auditing are in response to directives on government priorities on women’s empowerment, there are greater integration of this perspective across government departments and spheres.
It can also not be taken for granted that public servants know how to do gender budgeting, implementation and auditing. The Government of India, for its gender-budgeting (2016-2018) invests considerable resources into training of public servants, civil society, as well as communities (5). In one of its brochures, it answers frequently asked questions such as: what is gender mainstreaming, and the difference between gender equality and gender equity.
Gender budgeting and the developmental state
A developmental state is fundamentally about transforming the socio-economic landscape of the country and its peoples. The focus on women and girls therefore make sense from a rights perspective, as well as from an equality and efficiency perspective.
As an instrument, gender budgeting provides for greater clarity on what needs to be done to translate the promises of equality in our Constitution into tangible outcomes, which can be measured in programmes implemented, resources spent and the impact on the lives of women and girls.
Comrade Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is a member of the ANC National Executive Committee
1) “Gender budgeting in G7 Countries. International Monetary Fund, April 2017.
2) “Empowerment Case Studies: Women’s Budget Initiative—South Africa”. Case study prepared by Prof. Deepti Bhatnagar and Ankita Dewan at the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) and Magüi Moreno Torres and Parameeta Kanungo at the World Bank (Washington DC). http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTEMPOWERMENT/Resources/14659_S-Afr-Wmn-Budg-web.pdf.
3) Doing More with Less: A South African Gender Budget Analysis for Health, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Energy and Trade and Industry (2012/13). Motsepe Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Women. http://www.women.gov.za/attachments/article/14/GRB%20-%202013%20Report%20(Final).pdf
4) “Sub-Saharan Africa: A Survey of Gender Budgeting Efforts”. By Janet G. Stotsky, Lisa Kolovich, and Suhaib Kebhaj. IMF Working Paper WP/16/152, July 2016.
5) “Gender Budgeting. Frequently Asked Questions.” Government of India, Ministry of Women and Child Development. http://wcd.nic.in/sites/default/files/GB%20Flyer.pdf
By Maropene Ramokgopa
Our country has gone through a number of transitional integration phases that have given the democratically elected government of the ANC impetus to appreciate and seek to fast track gender equality in South Africa. A number of concepts were developed to channel the energy of bringing to consolidation the fruits of the new democratic dispensation such as women emancipation and gender mainstreaming. The struggle that remains constant is how, when, why and where do we locate the precise level in sectors of society be it, economic, social institution or household, in the monitoring of progress of gender equality.
Philosophers have stressed in one way or another, that the progress of any development in a nation cannot be fulfilled without its character being reflected in the standard of living of its women as a group in society. It is no surprise that the African National Congress as a leader of the National Democratic Revolution, couldn’t envision its objective’s logical conclusion without reflecting on a non-sexist society.
A world-renowned author, motivational speaker, Founder and Chief Lecturer of Vedanta Academy in India – a globally leading movement in matters of self-management and leadership – Swamiji Parthasarathy once said “Not until you learn to ignore the question of gender and to meet in a common ground of common humanity, will your woman really develop”. He has extensively written and shared in his lectures that indeed, our progress in life as society, depends mainly on how we treat women around us.
It is an undeniable fact that a lot of strides have been made and must be celebrated as it relates to the numbers of women in leadership and occupying strategic positions of power . To be specific in the pre democratic era, women representation in parliament was 27 % and in 1994, at the dawn of the democratic dispensation, this representation showed a rise to 33%. South Africa is currently ranked high globally and in third place in Africa with over 40% of parliamentarians being female. However, much still remains to be done in the other sectors of society, as to ensure congruence of growth and progress in both the elite structure and grass roots women as it relates to socio economic emancipation.
We have in the past witnessed a deliberate feminisation of poverty that was institutionalised at the same rate as the racialisation of poverty in South Africa. This found greater expression in the rural areas and areas that were previously reserved for Black and African people. We must relocate the effort put in elitism of gender equity, to meeting on common ground of common humanity as said by Swamiji of Vedanta movement, in order to decrease the domination of those efforts to the upper strata of society that constitutes a minute percentage of women as a group in general. This will have a direct impact to women emancipation across all levels of society. Most especially in consideration of the fact that gender relations as a concept, is a societal construct, therefore cannot be engaged in a vacuum from stratification elements of its whole.
It will indeed be disingenuous to suggest that there is no effort and progress in total emancipation of women, in terms of legislation. In 1996, the ANC in government ensured that the right to reproductive process for women is formally enshrined in our constitution.The Chapter 9 institutions in the Constitution, Employment Equity legislation as well as the establishment of the Women’s Ministry located in the Presidency are further evidence of these advances.
However, we must guard against social inequality lagging behind legislation. The role and programs of these institutions must be inundated solely with reacting to gender based violence or general patriarchal based corporate or political career progression. They must ensure they put in place systems in society as a construct, that will erode any form and element of gender inequality. Women of all ages, strata, race or creed must where necessary access deliberate support in order to develop themselves to stand ready to take up opportunities presented by our government initiated programs. This should be a constant and deliberate action with clear objectives.
Some of the already direct and unambiguous programs to be adopted and domesticated as it relates to direct and deliberate intervention are principles such as those found in the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. Basic principles such as women health and education.
We should also acknowledge that “gender like race, is socially constructed with rights, access to resources, power participation in public life and it is in the main interpreted through cultural lens”
There are a number of school of thoughts (whether right or wrong) as it relates to Feminism as a concept. There are those who perceive this concept as competition or battle for dominance between men and women, some see it as a way of fighting for equality and others see it as a mechanism of reversing the injustices of the past and to a certain degree of the current injustices, most especially social injustices. There are those who also see it as a way of engineering a methodology that can change how opposite genders relate or engage in society to the redistribution of resources and roles in general.
In my experience, that must include excusing my ignorance, feminism is necessary to transform society as a whole not only by institutionalised forms through legislative processes, but equally social transformation from the all levels. This will reflect the view held by some gender activists including myself, that seeks to suggest that , emancipation of men and women equally from socialization that defines the current gender roles in society, will in essence eradicate any form of dominance by any group, in-terms of equal access to opportunities and a better way of life.
Women emancipation is a form of co-operation and most definitely in the words reflecting on the teaching of Swamiji , a common ground of common humanity concept. We know it better as Ubuntu/Botho.
As a diplomat representing South Africa in India and as a deployee of the African National Congress in the diplomatic/ Consular Corps, I have observed a number of commonalities and few differences in how different societies globally engage with issues of gender equality and women emancipation in particular. The common denominator in discriminatory behaviours is usually the belief systems that can be characterised as culture and religion.
Some of these commonalities are evident in how culture informs many activities in our society, including commerce, social and political processes. In international management theory offered in various Masters in Business Management courses, culture which is derived at times from religion and tradition carries a lot of load in decision making and engagement of investors in their host countries.
This is one way of proving that culture has a lot of impact in how we operate and view things in society. It is in this regard that I am convinced that any form of dominance as it relates to race, class or gender, has got a lot of its principles rooted in socialisation inculcated through belief systems. Culture and religion remains the essence of human nature of relations and the anchor of our being, but if not carefully inculcated in the construct of society, it can be detrimental to human progress. We must note that cultural practices that are impeding on the rights of women in particular, are not only embraced by men but they are also embraced by other women. Most especially older generation of women.
As a result of this social construct and different stratum in it, it is important to note that the deficiency witnessed in balancing socially based inequalities, that usually has its glaring ugly face in the lowest strata of society be a reason for regression of the united gender struggle movement. We must remain vigilant not to allow the achievements and successes such as of being ranked 3rd in representation of women in the arm of our legislature in the state to become a mere drop of hot water in an ocean of a cold water. An unintended consequence may develop and the remanence part of it will definitely be social distance and very high levels of inequality in a group of society that is supposed to join hands in their own emancipation.
These unavoidable realities will definitely breed differences in how women may view what represents them as a group and action to be taken to forge a united struggle against patriarchal society. This may eventually have an impact on our movement’s efforts to achieving a non-sexist society. Analysing common ground and common humanity is the only tool that can change history and give us an opportunity to achieve a just and equal society, were humanity outside of gender, class of race defines how people relate.
The African National Congress as a leader of the mass democratic movement, the national democratic revolution and a leader of broader society, must ensure that its approach on achieving a non-sexist society is concerned more with non-elitist solutions and embrace the fact that human rights and women emancipation are congruous in all forms, context and concept. Although strategic positions of power are important and can easily be achieved through a decree of a quota systems, they must not replace the appreciation of what gender equality really means.
Ours, as liberation movement, is to lead society as a whole. We don’t exist for ourselves as an organisation but we exist for society as its leader.
As we enter into women’s month programs in our beloved country, commemorating the 1956 Women’ march against pass laws and apartheid era, lest we forget, we must be resolute in what is to be done and how it should be done. The future is ours to mould, the present is for us to take charge of and history remains our constant lesson. We should be inspired by the precision in thought, objective and execution from the women of the generation of 1956. Their effort and unity of purpose became the labour ward of the freedom of our people and hope of achieving a national democratic society, which will characterise a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society.
We salute the generation of 1956 and the fighting spirit of the generation of Comrade Mme Charlotte Maxeke, in whose footsteps the 1956 generation followed. She was part of the first anti- pass movement organisers that mobilised people for a march in 1913 against the apartheid regime. As one of the feminists and gender activist ancestors of our national democratic revolution, we continue to be inspired by her for she broke barriers imposed by a patriarchal society, but most of all, her efforts, and acquired skill, was mostly seen in the development of the grass roots levels of our people.
Comrade Maropene Ramokgopa is a member of the ANC, ANC WL and former NEC member of the ANCYL. She is deployed as Consul General of RSA in Mumbai, India and writes in her personal capacity
By Bathabile Dlamini
It was following the dawn of our democracy that South Africa started to acknowledge and celebrate the role of women in the struggle for freedom through the women’s month. This year, 2017, marks the 61st Anniversary of the 1956 women’s march to the Union Buildings against pass laws. The march was preceded by months of preparation and build up; the women of South Africa including blacks, whites, coloureds and Indians, joined forces and marched on the Union Buildings which marked the biggest mobilisation of women in South Africa. Around 20 000 women joined this anti-pass march at the point when women decisively began to change the political landscape of the country. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication by some of the great women of the ANC Women’s League including Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Dorothy Nyembe, Sophie du Bruyn, Ray Alexander and Rahima Moosa, to mention a few.
Our understanding is that the march to the Union Buildings in 1956, by 20 000 women, was also about challenging an oppressive system that sought to deepen the inequalities in terms of race and gender which contributed to the current triple challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty which burden women the most. Therefore when women of South Africa converged at the Union Buildings sixty one (61) years ago, from every corner of South Africa, they created an enduring legacy of our country’s history. It was the dedication and tenacity of these women that paved the way for a new South Africa embedded on the principles of non-sexism and equality
The women’s month pays homage not only to the women of 1956 but stands to acknowledge the women of our country who emerged as primary catalysts for protests against and as agitators of the apartheid regime since the turn of the century. As we celebrate the 61st anniversary of the women’s march of 1956, we need to recognize all stalwarts that confronted colonialism, apartheid, pass laws, land dispossession and others. Our celebrations of the 61st Anniversary of the women’s march must also acknowledge the role women played in the history of South Africa. This cannot be complete until we take the journey from the era of Charlotte Maxeke’s, Lillian Ngoyi, Winnie Mandela etc. through to 1956 and to date.
Subsequent to the unbanning of political organisations, women committed to the emancipation of women and facilitated the representation of women in the leadership positions within the ANC and for women be treated as equals to men. With the dissolution of apartheid it gave women the opportunity to focus on the gender struggle directly.
During the negotiations for democracy, women drew on their experience of the years of struggle and were able to ensure a high proportion of women in parliament, influence the country’s constitution, and advocate the establishment of state machinery to mainstream gender equality. However, in the post-apartheid era of reconstruction and development, both the demobilisation of protest movements and the emphasis on the technical aspects of development stand in the way of gender mainstreaming through the state.
In the advent of democracy and the creation of our constitution and laws, women have made many gains. We have one of the most gender sensitive and liberal constitutions in the world. Women have also been integral in the development of laws that protect the rights of women and children such as the Domestic Violence Act, and laws that pertain to sexual offenses and the protection of children. At the 2007 ANC conference in Polokwane women fought for 50-50 gender parity on all ANC Structures and this time the position of women was adopted by the conference. The conference took a resolution on the establishment of a Women’s ministry.
As we celebrate the women’s month we also have to review and quantify progress in improving the quality of life of our women in general. This should also mark our advance to the second phase of our transition within the context of Radical Transformation of Women’s Socio-Economic Rights, which emphasizes economic liberation as the necessary site of struggle for women. During this phase we have to ensure that all our policies and programmes emphasize the urgency of tackling the triple resilient challenges faced by women.
Women at the 5th ANC National Policy Conference identified gender based violence, land re-distribution, monopoly capital, inclusion of women in positions of power and economic transformation as interconnected hindrances towards total emancipation of our women.
We noted the deliberations and characterisation of Gender Based Violence (GBV) by the National Policy Conference as well as the assessment of progress made by the democratic government since 1994 in its work towards eliminating gender-based violence. However, we have further noted that women continue to face high levels of gender-based violence and discrimination.
Therefore we must find lasting solutions to the scourge and our efforts must resume with a campaign for acts of domestic violence to be registered as crimes in the justice system. Neighbourhood watch structures in all wards and the creation of partnerships with in victim empowerment centres in support of GBV victims, and to reduce the withdrawal of gender-based violence cases in courts must be established. We need to also emphasize the development and implementation of strict legislation and increase human personnel (inspectors) to prevent human trafficking, and initiate pointed community awareness campaigns on the prevention of human trafficking and the elimination of child-prostitution.
The posture in which the debates on land issues adopted was gravely concerning. The land clause in the constitution is the only clause that has a year as a time frame for land claims. Our land was invaded long before the 1913 Land Act. The ANC National Policy Conference has acknowledged that the land issue in South Africa constitutes the core of the struggle for the political, economic and social emancipation of the people of South Africa, and of women, in particular. Therefore we must ensure that the reviewal process of the 1913 Land Act should ensure that women access productive agricultural land that will sustain their livelihoods, and that adequate mentoring programmes are provided to women who were given land by government.
The triple exploitation of women in society has been reduced but not yet eliminated and that poverty, unemployment and inequality affect women the most and have been identified by the ANC as serious impediment to radical transformation. Whilst the mainstream economy still continues to be dominated by men, women continue to play in the informal space. However, there has been marginal improvement in the state of entrepreneurship among women; nevertheless much more needs to be done.
The implementation of radical economic transformation should also advance provision of social services. Free quality social services must include (but not limited to):
- Free and compulsory quality education for children of the poor and working class from early childhood development to undergraduate level. Gender equality, history and entrepreneurship forming part of compulsory curriculum.
- Intensify roll-out of National Health Insurance to achieve the provision of free and quality healthcare.
- Eradicate apartheid spatial planning which settles black people in the outskirts of the major economic areas and provide quality housing and community infrastructure.
- Reliable and affordable basic services such as clean water, sanitation and electricity.
- Reliable, affordable and safe public transport.
The ANC inherited a government characterised with difficulties. Elements of the state that are the foundation of our development have not been given full attention over executive, legislature and the judiciary which were built on shaky ground. These are institutions that bring about structural change. This is an agonizing state of affairs as the democratic government had to learn from experience.
Should we fail to bring about radical change in these institutions based on the history of our country and the atrocities that where inflicted by colonialism to our people we would have failed our people. Our positive posture has given space to monopoly capital. They have invaded the space in civil society that was jealously guarded by the toiling masses of our country. They even have the audacity to dictate who should be elected, who is going to be their darling, who will protect their status quo, who must be a minister and so-on by utilising media as their tool of persuasion.
They have been fighting from all fronts to protect their profits and they are sharing platforms with well-respected comrades who have been better placed to define and characterise the present epoch. No one has come out clearly to ask a question about how we must establish an undiluted people’s government that is ready to change the quality of lives of our people.
Progressive strides have been taken during this period of our democracy, more particularly access to resources. A lot has also happened to perpetuate corruption, dysfunctional and weak families, sharing of our communities with criminals, acceptance of patronage from criminals, violence against women and children. Everything monopoly capital stands for is patriarchal and women need to take active leadership in society and the country at large. The casualties of dubious actions by monopoly capital are single parents who are mostly women and the working class that is not sure of the future of its children.
One of the success stories of our democracy is the inclusion and representation of women in political and decision-making positions. Involving women in governance processes constitutes one of South Africa’s globally acclaimed success stories of our country. We need to acknowledge that South Africa as a country, if not the African National Congress as a political party, has been committed to the capacity building of women by ensuring inclusion of women in legislatures, in executive positions and in the judiciary bodies. South Africa has good legislation that ensures women are included in positions of power whilst other countries continue to exclude women through the ineffective zebra system. As a country we can pride ourselves in having institutions such as the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) and Human Right Commission (HRC) who safeguard the rights of women together with the Women’s Ministry in the Presidency. The ANC Women’s League continues to lead society in championing the issues of women emancipation.
President General of the ANC, John Langalibalele Dube had confidence in the women leadership and we can attest to that with the fact that his tenure was inclusive of women. Cde Oliver Tambo further advanced the agenda of women emancipation by forming a committee on women emancipation, guided by the ANC on issues of gender equality and the struggle for women’s rights. The ANC has continually taken women issues to centre stage and provided leadership to society with regards to women empowerment. Therefore, it remains the duty of the current leadership to ensure that the agenda of women emancipation does not fall by wayside, particularly for women who still need access to resources.
In the year that we celebrate the centenary of the birth of Cde Oliver Tambo, let us honour his legacy in women emancipation by ensuring that women who have capacity to lead are elected in the upcoming conference of the ANC and beyond.
Happy Women’s Month to all the women of our country.
Cde Bathabile Dlamini is the President of the ANC Women’s League and member of the ANC NEC
By Susan Shabangu
Yesterday we launched government’s programmes for the month of August, which has come to be dedicated to women’s programmes. Every August, South Africa commemorates Women’s Month as a tribute to the women of 1956 who sent a strong public message, which was that they would not be intimidated and silenced by unjust laws.
This year marks 61 years since about 20 000 women from all walks of life marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the unjust pass laws that restricted their freedom of movement and destabilised families and livelihoods.
This year’s Women’s Month dawns on us in a time when the country’s men and women are under the attack of increased violence in all sectors. Women bear the biggest brunt of this violence for merely being born women.
The increasing brutality and violence against women ranks as the highest form of betrayal because the majority of it is in the hands of those they trust, which is their boyfriends, fathers, husbands and uncles.
Violence against women and children is about power and control over women’s bodies.
This Women’s month we have increased our work with men and men’s groups. This Women’s month our programmes show that despite our many challenges, we are moving forward, together, as a society of both men and women who are concerned about the state of our lives.
As South Africans, we are a vibrant people who have shown many times that when we work together, we can change the world and dismantle systems of oppression. Our collective efforts, from all walks of life, are what brought us the victory against colonialism and apartheid. In the same way, it is our collective efforts, as men and women, that will lead us to victory against the terrible evil of gender based violence.
As government, we are clear in our knowledge that such change cannot happen without the full involvement of the community, including business and religious leaders, civil society organisations, and even individuals acting in their own capacities.
This year our target is also the agents of socialisation.
Agents of socialisation such as families, religious institutions, schools, friends and the media have a central role to play in transforming our society. This is because it is mainly from these institutions that identities and ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman in society are formed.
Peaceful, affirming and loving homes teach girls and boys what it means be a good human being. Likewise, homes where violence is rife raise very violent girls and boys. Friends, places of worship, schools and the media do a similar job. Through these, notions of self are formed and in turn, are replicated in action towards others.
When girls are taught they are weaker than boys from an early age, and boys are taught that they can dominate their sisters, the consequences can sometimes be deadly in adulthood.
From a very early age, we take to structures of domination as normal features of our world.
But it would be an injustice to consider why women continue to be victims of violence without considering our own role as women in that violence.
What is the psychological impact of being born into a world which is structured in such a way that everyone who looks like you is a victim of violence?
We can no longer afford to be inattentive to the psychological impact of domination.
This year the Department of Women is embarking on a dialoguing programme with communities to have honest conversations about how we, as women, have internalised the roles that have been taught to us from birth in our families, in schools, by our friends, in our places of worship, and in the media. Everywhere we look, we are told to submit.
The dialogues are also going to scrutinise the effects of how families reserve the biggest piece of meat for men, our churches are led by men, the majority of schoolbooks are written by men, and the media is dominated by men. These realities contribute to how men are positioned as more important than women in society.
If we are to critically address these systems of oppression, the first point of call to address these structures and to dismantle them.
We have to also question our cultural and traditional systems and beliefs, which teach us about the power dynamics of gender. In many traditions, women who speak out or challenge patriarchy are punished in the name of culture or tradition. This punishment is served by both men and women. Women and men who comply with these systems are also often rewarded generously. We have to start questioning these systems, which we have come to adopt and believe to be true.
Many times, those who challenge these power structures are labelled as wanting to pollute and to cause trouble for women who are happy where they are.
There are also many people who argue that by focussing on women in our efforts against gendered oppression, we are leaving men behind. This cannot be further from the truth.
Working with men through strategic partnerships is a necessary contribution towards transforming our society.
However, we are also aware of many men who join our struggle against gender-based violence in public yet continue to emotionally and physically abuse their female partners in private. This must stop!
Freedom from domination is only possible if we recognize how these systems are reproduced, and how both men and women contribute to that reproduction. That is why efforts to end gendered violence must include both men and women.
As scholar, Bell Hooks says, until we are all able to accept and recognise the specific ways that systems of domination are maintained, we will continue to act in ways that undermine our quest for collective liberation. The task awaiting the struggle against violence on women is to move from awareness to action.
We are encouraged that some men have answered the call to work together to end violence on women.
These men have launched campaigns that recognise that it is not enough for men to be silent when their sisters, cousins, partners, friends, wives, neighbours and mothers are violated and in live in fear. This is testimony that there are good men who care.
However, we need to see and hear more men speaking out and acting against the abuse of women saying – “Not in their Name.” Let us therefore support their campaign #NotInMyName.
We are pleased that various faith based organisations have joined the fight for No violence against women and children. We call on other faith based organisations and traditional leaders, community leaders, women’s organisations, and even stokvels to stand up against violence, drug abuse and other social ills 365 days of the year.
We believe that forging partnerships with communities, business, faith based organisations & traditional leadership will give women first hand opportunity to directly influence government programmes and ensure the mainstreaming of gender issues through National Dialogues programme.
This year, Women’s Month coincides with the centenary of our esteemed leader OR Tambo, who was a strong advocate for gender equality. During the Conference of the Women in Luanda in 1981, he said:
“The mobilisation of women is the task, not only of women alone, or of men alone, but of all of us, men and women alike, comrades in struggle. The mobilisation of the people into active resistance and struggle for liberation demands the energies of women no less than of men”.
OR Tambo was in the forefront of the emancipation of women.
The National Women’s Day will be observed on 9 August, in Galeshewe Stadium, Kimberley, under the theme: “The Year of OR Tambo: Women united in moving South Africa forward”.
Let’s make a commitment to work together in making sure that violence against women is ended in our society.
It starts with breaking the chains of patriarchy whenever it manifests itself, be it in our homes and in our communities.
To this end, a wide range of government programmes pay special attention to addressing the needs of women with priority given to promoting women’s access to economic opportunities. Women are key beneficiaries in the development of skills. The department is also hard at work developing Sanitary Dignity, Gender Responsive Budgeting and Women Financial Inclusion Frameworks which will further engender the women socio-economic agenda in the country.
We urge you to report acts of violence against women whenever it happens. You are in partnership with perpetrators if you stay silent in the face of violence.
Let’s build a society wherein men and women will not be measured based on gender but as equal human beings.
We call upon all men and men formations to be part of the solution in the fight against femicide. This will contribute to building on the legacy of the women of 1956, who envisaged men and women working together as set out in the Women’s Charter of 1954.
Our activities for Women’s Month will include National Dialogues in the Northern Cape on Violence against Women and Children, to help combat the continued scourge of violent attacks and abuse against women and children.
While women have made some important gains, there is a lot more work to be done before we can say that we have truly achieved gender equality in our country. Women are still faced with challenges of poverty, unemployment, abuse and violence.
Comrade Susan Shabangu is a member of the ANC NEC and Minister of Women
The Women’s Month dialogue programme will take place as follows:
- 15 August 2017 – Kimberley, Francis Baard District;
- 17 August 2017 – Kuruman, John Taolo Gaetsewe District;
- 21 August 2017 – Petrusville – Pixley ka Seme District;
- 22 August 2017 – De Aar – Pixley ka Seme District
- 23 August 2017 – Phokwane – Francis Baard District
- 24 August 2017 – Barkey – Francis Baard District;
- 28 August 2017 – Augrabies – ZF Mgcawu District
- 29 August 2017 – Upington – ZF Mgcawu District
- 30 August 2017- Springbok – Namakwa District
- 31 August 2017 – Frazerburg – Namakwa