In pursuit of my African Dream – I am WOMAN . . .

In an article in the Mail & Guardian on Friday morning (3 AugImageust 2012) written by Jane Bennett (Director of the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town) the headline reads “The rock has been struck, now what?” the sub text reads: “women’s inequality battles continue every day, yet the state takes notice only on August 9.”

I don’t know about you but when it comes to these national days or months (Women’s Month, 16 Days of Activism of no violence against women and children, Child Protection Week etc) I sigh with weariness at the thought that we are once again going to be subjected to huge stadium events where some government official (Minister or the President himself) will read a long, drawn out speech about how we “condemn violence against women and children” or something like that. We will once again be reminded about how far we’ve come and “look what government has done” in terms of legislation and policies, meanwhile, back at home, my next door neighbour is still being beaten by her husband/life partner, the child down the road is still being abused by his/her parent(s) etc while government officials host a sing-and-dance about how “we condemn violence” at some public venue wasting more tax payers money while non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) like Rape Crisis, Black Sash, Saartjie Baartman Centre, the Big Issue and others are on the verge of closing their doors due to lack of funding.

Our national Lottery (originally set up to fund NGO’s and other projects) always has money for huge political events, but does not have enough money to spread across the Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) or Non Profit Organisations (NPO’s) – makes one think, doesn’t it?

These organisations do a sterling job in trying to heal the social ills of society doing a sterling job in the process with little or no funding from government and have to rely on external and sometimes overseas funding, which is now also running out because these donors are not focussing on their own countries or ploughing funds into Central Africa instead.

We are still faced with the following:-

  • Women dying in childbirth
  • Most Black (African and Coloured) women remain dependent on domestic work (often casual and not every day of the week) or work in the textile industry for low wages
  • Agricultural labour (mostly seasonal and therefore casual/piecemeal work)
  • Informal trading – I am seeing more and more women standing at traffic lights selling their wares to get some money to feed families
  • Education systems, already challenged as they are in terms of level and quality of education provided, have also become spaces in which girls’ safety is at risk (male teachers raping female pupils in exchange for good academic results. Male pupils raping fellow girl pupils – just for the “fun/hell” of it.
  • Women and girls who are lesbians face public assault and often worse, as do any women, especially the young ones who openly defy what is expected of them “as women”.
  • Class plays a big role in how we are socialised as women and this, in turn, shapes social inequality, unequal access to resources, well-being and authority.
  • Rape of women and children still continues throughout all campaigns, national days and months and in spite of all the “we condemn violence against women and children” speeches.

Then, of course, we still have the proposed Traditional Courts Bill which is still being challenged and put under public scrutiny for not favouring women.

Our Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities is planning to launch the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill which apparently is at an advanced stage. This national policy is proposing guidelines for promoting women empowerment and gender equality. The Draft Bill will be tabled before Cabinet during the 2012/13 financial year which will help enforce compliance in both government and the private sector. South Africa has made commitments through the Constitution, various pieces of legislation and international conventions to respect, promote, protect and advance the rights of women and as a country we have an obligation to honour these commitments.

It is now my turn to say “so what?” what difference is this new Bill/piece of legislation now really going to do for us as women? Is it going to stop the abuse and violence happening all around me? What do we really have to celebrate as women?

So if government has all these plans and commitments, how come the violence against women and children is getting worse rather than better? Why do I still feel so unsafe in my own country? Why do I fear for the children growing up now? I have a 7 year old nephew and 4 year old niece – I pray for their safety every day that they can reach adulthood without too much trauma crossing their paths.

Surely, life should not be like this? I am a WOMAN. I deserve to be loved, nurtured and respected – not raped, maimed and disfigured.

I deserve to be treated with dignity – don’t you think so too?

Also see: Facebook group: Women Demand Dignity and

http://www.womendemanddignity.co.za

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