From the 1st of August there has been a surge of messages from different forms of media about the celebration of National Women’s Month and National Women’s Day (which will be on the 9th of August). These month long celebrations are intended to highlight how women in South Africa are making changes and fighting a long history of oppression and getting closer to freedom and equality. But the question rises “Are they really?”
It is without a doubt that women in South Africa have made great strides and achieved greater freedom and representation from that historical march to the Union Buildings on
9 August 1956, against the apartheid pass law. The numbers of women in management and leadership positions continue to rise, there are many stories of female entrepreneurs who started from nothing but are now leading the pack and some in previously male dominated fields. Currently there is a 48% female representation throughout the South African Government, the country boasts female vice-chancellors, a female fighter pilot, positions which were only occupied by males until recently, …and the list goes on. These are indeed victories for women and the country as a whole.
However, we cannot deny that years later women are still fighting the same battles, be it in different forms, but the battles are the same. Women are still faced with unequal pay when compared to their male counterparts, they have to deal with the scourge of domestic violence as well as workplace violence and harassment, gender-based discrimination. Apart from the struggles faced in the workplace, they still bear the burden of unpaid care work. 64 years later, despite the many technological achievements, we still have so-called “male dominated” careers or industries.
The COVID-19 Pandemic, although it has had a negative impact on everyone, women have been the hardest hit. The gender inequality gap in terms of employment rates between men and women have increased. Not only that, but there has also been a surge in regard to violence and harassment. The unprecedented restrictions imposed on people during the Lockdown have exacerbated stress levels. Some women have found themselves confined for longer periods with their abusive partners, thus resulting in an increase in domestic violence cases. In some cases, violence and harassment has been directed against essential personnel, healthcare workers and others on the pandemic frontlines, where women have a higher level of representation. Many women have been forced to work under unhealthy and dangerous working conditions in an effort to keep their jobs, this despite the numerous health and safety guidelines and regulations issued by government.
With all of these negatives facing women, is there a point in celebrating Women’s Month or Women’s day? Yes, there is!!
Although it may seem as if the incline keeps getting steeper for women, commemorating the history and fights that women have fought and won is a great reminder that despite adversity, there will be progress and greater victories in the future.
The celebration of hard working, resilient women and their achievements is a great way to raise awareness of how far women have come and an indication that greater accomplishments can be achieved despite the obstacles encountered along the way. These celebrations remind us that women have had a long forged path of fighting for freedom and these celebrations honour all the sacrifices women have made throughout South African history. How are you going to celebrate or honour the women in your life?
MISA wishes all women a glorious and memorable women’s month.
“There is no limit to what we as women can accomplish” – Michelle Obama.