ISSUE 11 | 2015
THE DEPARTMENT MUST EMPLOY MORE AND EMPOWER WOMEN
On Sunday, August 09th, it will be a full 59 years since that historic and heroic National Women’s March in 1956 in Pretoria.
As we do so, we remember with fond memories and salute all the gallant women that have been at the forefront of the struggle for national liberation in our country and have sacrificed immensely for the attainment of this noble goal. We salute the women that perished in the course of struggle and many others, in urban and rural areas, whom apartheid bequeathed with poverty and other unimaginable pains and suffering.
It is a tribute to their resilience and militancy, among others, that South Africa today is a free country embarked upon a course for fundamental social transformation. Accordingly, we all understood it that the struggle for women emancipation and gender equality was, simultaneously, a struggle for human emancipation, a struggle of all humanity for all humanity, a struggle for human rights!
South African women, black and white, suffered together during the South African War of 1899-1902 as their men engaged in mortal combat over the gold deposits of the Witwatersrand and for the political control of this country, and in the process established inhumane concentration camps in order to pursue the policy of annihilation of the vanquished. Both their men and sons died in the course of war and black women further suffered the indignity of the non-recognition of their men who had fought and perished in the war, unrewarded for their efforts and sacrifices.
South African women, black and white, fought for national freedom and democracy. Many, such as Charlotte Maxeke, Lillian Ngoyi, Ruth First, Amina Cachalia, Helen Joseph, Ray
Simons, Francis Baard, Fatima Meer, Ruth Momphati, Bertha Gxowa, Victoria Mxenge and many others young and old gave their all in order to see South Africa free.
Among these were those such as Miss Helen Suzman who single-handedly fought the system from within for many years. She was a lone voice in an all-white apartheid parliament advocating an alternative to the apartheid system, for which she received the ire of the regime and was derided for a long time. But, credit to her, she did not relent in her pursuing her convictions and ideas.
South African women, black and white, have fought long and hard for women emancipation and gender equality. They fought for the right to vote, the right to work, to earn the same levels of salary or wages as men, reproductive health and many other rights relevant to the fulfilment of their ideal of emancipation and equality.
Bearing all this in mind, all the struggles and sacrifices, the feats and the foibles, over the vast expanse of time, we developed a correct understanding that the New South Africa would need to resolve national oppression based on race; class super-exploitation directed against black workers; and the triple oppression of the mass of women based on their race, class and their gender. For us, freedom would be incomplete unless it resulted in the liberation of women as part of a single liberation process.
Inevitably, our efforts must change everything, fundamentally restructure society as we have known it and permanently re-arrange the national, social and gender relations between our people.
Today, the position of women in our society reflects that resilient and relentless movement towards the attainment of full emancipation and real justice and equality! That we have made some progress with regard to the creation of a non-sexist society reflects the progress we have made in the broader struggle for social transformation. At the same, that we still have more distance to traverse in pursuit of social transformation means that we must intensify the struggle and open up new fronts of action against gender oppression and sexism.
The emancipation of the women of our country will constitute one of those principal ingredients, therefore, for the creation of a new and caring society. Women felt the more the grave socio-economic and political outcomes of apartheid and capitalism. It is them that feel urban and rural poverty all the more, and hence meet the worse the injustice and depravity of these systems. Necessarily, women must be found in the frontline of the struggle for national and social emancipation.
It is women that must lead the struggle for their own emancipation and, in particular, the struggle to liberate us men from antique concepts and attitudes that define the role and place of women in society and the struggle. At the same time, on their part, men must accept it that their own emancipation and development depends, in large measure, on the full and veritable emancipation and development of women.
Generally, South Africa is doing well in this field of liberating women and pursuing gender equality compared to many other countries. In politics (and government) and social sectors, our country has done excellently in bringing on board more women, albeit still insufficient. However, in the private sector, there has been serious slackening and lack of commitment and conviction. The problem is that business does not view transformation and particularly black and women empowerment as making business sense. Their boardrooms remain unchanged They thus fail to recognise the political capital, corporate integrity and credibility, diversity and other positive benefits that come with having women and black people on your Board and company.
For this reason, we must sadly admit it that Home Affairs is both doing well in some respects with regard to empowering women but, in others, it is trailing behind. At SMS levels, we are failing to reach our targets and are not showing serious commitment towards recruiting more women. Submissions to the Minister easily say, “qualified women candidates could not be found”, and the Minister is expected to accept that nonsense!
This Minister will NOT! The DHA needs more women at decision-making level and we will not relent until we find them! There are many competent women out there, we must find them and groom the ones we already have both below SMS and at SMS levels so that when vacancies occur, they are ready to fill them.
We salute the South African women for their steadfast, principled and unrelenting efforts and conviction towards their emancipation!
Happy National Women’s Day to all DHA women! We salute you!
Malusi Gigaba MP Minister