What was exceptional about the 1956 Women’s March, is that women owned their revolution. The mistake we make today is dictating what women’s emancipation means.
Women can best express their problems and solutions to the system we have today.
Sixty-three years after the Women’s March, South Africa is still a male-dominated society. Women are still not in leadership positions of many organisations. They find it hard to be economically active in certain sectors.
The rate of gender-based violence in our country is four times higher than the global average. The 16 days of activism against women abuse was initiated in 1998 but 21 years later violence against women has steadily increased. Cases of girls being abducted, raped and killed are reported daily. Corrective rape is a reality. Sex workers are robbed, raped and victimised even by law enforcement authorities.
With all the atrocities committed against innocent women, there hasn’t been any attempt to confront the issue and deal with it.
There should be specialised courts for gender-based violence cases for the swift prosecution of offenders. Each police station should have dedicated officers to process, collect evidence and investigate such cases. Many don’t even reach the courts because police officers are not sympathetic to the victim and have stereotyped attitudes about the issue.
There have been many hearings and summits on gender-based violence, but there must be legislation passed to effectively deal with the crime. There should be harsher sentences for unrepentant individuals.
There shouldn’t be any limitation on what women can do in and for their country. Inspiration can be drawn from Mmami Moshane of Mahikeng in North West, who owns and drives a taxi in the male-dominated industry, and Lamlelwa Noveve, who works as a miner deep underground in Thabazimbi, Limpopo. Women must have equal access to all the available economic opportunities.
Research by the Stellenbosch University Law Clinic shows that 30% of girls miss school when they are menstruating. This places them at a disadvantage with their male counterparts. No girl should miss a day of school because of she is menstruating. There have been calls for sanitary products to be made available for free and widely distributed just as condoms are. Government needs to listen to these calls and act.
Government must do away with the 60% Unemployment Insurance Fund payment because women aren’t unemployed when they are on maternity leave. Companies must pay the full four months’ salary for maternity leave. On average women make 28% less than their male counterparts.
Thomas Sankara once said: “The revolution cannot triumph without the emancipation of women.” The advancement of issues faced by women cannot be an August-only event, it needs to be a genuine all-year-round process to achieve the full emancipation of all women.
Igama lamakhosikazi malibongwe; the legacy of these women must be upheld.
Vuyolwethu Zungula MP is president of the African Transformation Movement, which was established in 2018 by the South African Council of Messianic Churches in Christ