​Why do the media take gender justice seriously in August, but ignore it otherwise?

The analysis of Women’s Month carried in last week’s Mail & Guardian (“Whew, Women’s Month is finally over”, August 26) was short-sighted. It is unclear what upsets Glenda Daniels about the media focus on gender-related stories during August. It is no coincidence that we do so — it is the month in which we commemorate the 1956 women’s march to the Union Buildings with sustained campaigns and activities.

We mark every August to remind ourselves how far we have to go, yes, but also to celebrate just how far we have come. It will always be an important time to celebrate our gains, to give added impetus to the struggle for gender equality.

The article does not acknowledge that the struggle for the emancipation of women in South Africa was never going to occur overnight.

Undoing a centuries-old legacy of discrimination against women, and black women in particular, will take many more years.

The non-rights of black women, including Daniels herself, are a matter of the historical record as we bore the brunt of triple oppression on the basis of race, class and gender.

When the ANC-led government took power in 1994, women’s rights were reserved for one racial group and, even then, white women occupied an inferior status in society compared with white men.

Thanks to the policies of the ANC, South Africa is an infinitely better place for women than it was before 1994. Knowing, as we do, that we still face myriad challenges, all South Africans committed to gender justice realise that we need the media to help us amplify issues affecting women, and accord them sufficient space and attention — instead of hurling insults from the sidelines.

This government has programmes throughout the year that advance gender equality, but we seldom see them being covered.

Instead of taking a dig at Women’s Month, perhaps Daniels should be asking why the media only cover gender issues with any kind of seriousness during August, and ignores them during the rest of the year.

Her catty comments about the ANC Women’s League are also uncalled for.

She refers to the women of the league as a bunch of “aunties” — with its inferences of subjugated black women in uniforms, toiling in backrooms, kitchens and nurseries. It is an insult not just to the women’s league but also to those same “aunties” she talks about.

Furthermore, calling the women’s league “historical relics of the liberation movement” fails to acknowledge the role the league has played, and continues to play, in giving effect to the constitutional right to gender equality.

Saying that the women’s league does not represent women’s interests is a common insult from the many women who enjoy the fruits of the liberation that we brought them, and comes as no surprise.

Daniels suggests the women’s league is not the “genuine” representative of women’s interests in South Africa, yet fails to acknowledge that it was the league that drove the formation of the Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa, an umbrella grouping representing all progressive women’s formations and women from all walks of life.

Readers of the M&G should rest assured that the female cadres of the women’s league, as represented across the structures of this government, do not measure success by the number of headlines they attract, but by how our lobbying and advocacy (much of it behind the scenes) has resulted in policy and legislative reform in the best interests of the country’s women.

Edna Molewa is a member of the national executive committee of the ANC Women’s League.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories


press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday