There is not much to celebrate for South African women this Women’s Day.
These were the sentiments echoed by dignitaries at the official Women’s Day event at Embekweni Stadium in the Western Cape on Thursday.
Hundreds of South Africans, mainly women, braved the cold conditions and thronged to the rugby stadium in Paarl to commemorate the iconic march to the Union Buildings by approximately 20 000 women in 1956 — who were armed with petitions protesting the country’s then cruel pass laws.
Just as it was then, when women had to lead the charge against inhuman treatment, a majority of the dignitaries giving the keynote addresses 62 years on still concluded that “a lot more fighting still needed to be done”.
“Shockingly, inequalities against women and the girl child are still accepted, maintained and mainstreamed in 2018. If we are to attain equality, we need to prioritise the challenging, dismantling and transformation of systematic, institutional and ideological patriarchy that still legitimises the oppression of women and the girl child,” said a passionate Western Cape MEC for cultural affairs and sport, Anroux Marais.
The MEC said that even through South African women are faced with daunting realities such as being “targets of violent crimes, different types of abuses and being denied opportunities based on gendered inequality,” they “would not be intimidated, silenced, overlooked or neglected”.
Similarly, reigning Miss South Africa Tamaryn Green said there was a need to “draw attention towards what is still being fought for by women today.
“We [women] are still dealing with domestic violence, sexual harassment, unequal pay and the denial of a decent education,” highlighted Green.
Minister of women in the presidency, Bathabile Dlamini warned men in South Africa to listen and accept what want without retaliating.
“When a woman says I don’t want, it means she doesn’t want. When women say they don’t love you any more it means exactly that.”
Dlamini was addressing scourge of femicide cases in South Africa.
In recent months media headlines have been hogged by incidents of young women killed by their former partners.
Convicted murderer Sandile Mantsoe was recently sentenced to a cumulative 32 years in prison after murdering his ex-girlfriend Karabo Mokoena.
As the Mantsoe trial drew to a close, yet another young woman met her fate at the hands of her former partner. Mangosuthu University of Technology student Zolile Khumalo was fatally shot by her ex-boyfriend Thabani Mzolo in full view of her roommate at the university’s residence in Durban.
And just last Friday, Rhodes University student Khensani Maseko committed suicide after she was allegedly raped by her boyfriend.
With this in mind, the minister called for the struggle for women emancipation to continue saying that “until there were female leaders in business, the judiciary, politics and other spheres of life, women would continue to face inequality.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa — who had a torrid start to his address after a group of women disrupted proceedings carrying placards calling on him to sign a moratorium on evictions, among other things — also agreed that “the struggle for women’s emancipation had to continue.
“Our efforts to build a society defined by dignity, equality and respect are incomplete. Poverty, hunger, landlessness are still the order of the day and women face inequality, prejudice, discrimination and exploitation,” said Ramaphosa.
The only light at the end of the tunnel, according to most of the speakers, lay in the fact that women came together, demanded and attained freedom from inhuman pass laws.