Tomorrow, 9 August, South Africa has the privilege of celebrating Women’s Day. The world has changed tremendously since 20 000 women of different socio-economic backgrounds marched to the Union Buildings on the same date 63 years ago, and which the country still commemorates. We may have come a long way since then, but should we be satisfied with just that? Today women in South Africa still face tremendous challenges and issues, such as unequal pay and treatment in the workplace, domestic violence, sexual harassment and single parenting.
According to the South African General Household Survey of 2016-17, 60% of South African households are managed by single mothers. Ten percent of these have lost their fathers to death, while the fathers of 50% of them were not present. Reading this I was filled with anger and indignation. It is not because women are not capable of raising their children as single parents, but rather it is they who once again are standing up and facing reality squarely, and acting in the best interests of their fellow women! Where are the men in all of this? Having a braai and drinking “brannas” and “Zamalek”?
For 63 years women have come together to take action. They have served as everyday heroes by taking on the role of caregivers, domestic workers, teachers, politicians, engineers, chief executive officers, grannies and ultimate change agents. Women have realised there’s no time to waste.
Our country and its people are suffering, our children are hungry, and some men still behave like boys, because “boys will be boys”, right? If our Constitution’s founding provisions of human dignity, equality, the advancement of human rights and freedoms, non-racialism and non-sexism remain only words written on a piece of paper, and don’t reflect the reality of South Africans, then we still have a lot of work ahead of us.
On this Women’s Day I would like to take the time to honour our women for what they have done and will still do in future. I am inspired by the legacy of women such as Lilian Ngoyi, Bertha Mashaba and Helen Joseph, who stood for freedom, human dignity and justice. I am inspired by how they blazed a trail for millions of women.
They weren’t satisfied with their own comfort or freedom. They realised that in order for South Africa to be united as a democratic state we all need to be free South Africans.
I honour the women who’ve gone before me and those who will come after me.
Today I honour the women of 2019 for their courage, boldness, compassion, determination, empathy and perseverance. I honour the women who are raising up a new generation as single mothers.
I honour the women who are supporting other women. I honour the dauntless women who are changing spaces, structures and communities. I honour the women who have been discouraged and hurt by our society. I honour the little women who have big dreams to change our country and I honour all women for who you are and have been made to be.
As I honour all these women I realise we still face massive challenges, but if there is one thing that remarkable day in August 1956 has taught me it is that women can overcome any challenge no matter how insurmountable it may seem. V Carli van Wyk is a law student at Stellenbosch University and chairperson of the SRC.
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