ANCWL calls for action against ‘elephant of patriarchy’

Women of all races and politics must set aside their differences and fight patriarchy, Angie Motshekga, president of the ANC Women’s League, said in Johannesburg on Sunday.

Motshekga was speaking after an ANC Women’s League think-tank, that included the Congress of South African Trade Unions and other like-minded organisations, on how to approach the party’s national policy conference planned for Mangaung at the end of the year.

The national executive committee meeting and workshop were held in Boksburg over the weekend.

“This elephant of patriarchy is all over,” she said, “As women, especially women in the ANC, which is very powerful and can shape the thinking of government, we need to push boundaries to ensure women’s issues are thought about at every level.”

Part of the debate this weekend focused on a revision of ANC policy papers with the specific intention of looking for “gender gaps”, she said.

A second workshop would be held in June in Pretoria with women’s rights groups and non-governmental organisations to discuss with them how women’s issues could be put on the agenda at the ANC policy conference.

Motshekga said there had been a regression in government and within the ANC on women’s issues with valuable gains being lost. Very few of the leadership roles, even at branch level, were held by women.

“Our strength lies in our unity,” she said. “We have to work across party divides on women’s issues.”

Freda Oosthuysen, Cosatu’s national treasurer, said there needed to be a campaign into Africa to educate women about patriarchy and empower them to become “part of the circle [of social dialogue]”.

“Women in Africa still pull back and a campaign to mobilise them on women’s issues will have to start at grassroots level,” Oosthuysen said.

Oosthuysen said ANC policy thinking now had to come up with a new way of looking at poor women and how they could be included in society.

“So many women are not employed or eligible for unemployment benefits. We need to find ways to include them in society,” she said.

On the issue of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s bid to become chairperson of the African Union Commission, Motshekga said it was important for the Southern African Development Community to take the chair.

“Dlamini-Zuma represents the region, not just South Africa,” she said.

On the debate surrounding the painting The Spear, Motshekga said the Women’s League national executive committee felt the work violated President Jacob Zuma’s dignity, and human dignity was a right enshrined in the Constitution.

“There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that freedom of expression is a right as well but this right is not absolute – it comes with responsibility,” she said.

She said was concerned about a naked, photo-shopped image of Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille that had been published during the furore over the painting of Zuma.

“Zille must not laugh that picture off. That is more than an image of her, it is the body of a woman and it is not acceptable to show it like that,” Motshekga said.

The nation needed to move on and work towards healing the wounds of the past instead of rubbing salt in them, she said. – Sapa

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