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