Since the advent of democracy, progress have been registered under this dispensation, to which women in particular, as a motive force of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) can clearly define their role in charting the way forward on how to realise their aspirations.
This as enshrined in the Women’s Charter of 1954, in contrast with the Freedom Charter of 1955.
It is an undeniable fact that our Bill of Rights echoes the aspiration of the Freedom Charter, therefore the trajectory of the NDR has been institutionalised at the heart of our democracy.
Our Women’s Charter is unequivocal in this point where is stipulates that “the level of civilisation which any society has reached, can be measured by the degree of freedom that its members of its society enjoys. The status of women is the test of civilisation”.
What then becomes the barometer of the strides we have made against the failures we have suffered or the stagnation we may be experiencing?
One of the key instruments that can be used to analyse the trajectory of the National Democratic Revolution, is how the balance of forces stands as it relates to progress made in the realisation of a non-sexiest society.
The Congress of the People that adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955, further give resonance to the principle mentioned above of the Women Charter when it says “only a democratic state, based on the will of the people, can secure to all their birth-right without distinction of colour, race, and gender or believe”.
On the 27 April 1994, the people of South Africa as a whole without any discrimination of any sort, marched through the doors of Independent Electoral Commission, to cast their votes as a nation for the first time. This was one of the first milestones that have echoed the sentiments of the plight of the struggle for liberation of our people, to be governed under a democratic State.
This is seen as a major achievement as the struggle against apartheid was primarily the struggle for democracy.
There is a growing sentiment that we cannot always refer to the past in defining who we are as a nation and why society is constructed in the way that it is.
However, it is not entirely wrong to say such sentiments are in direct contradiction with how different systems and concepts have been formed. It is a fact that History is a critical component of Theory of Knowledge in every subject or concept that is used as a tool in different aspects of life. As we find solutions it is important to first find proof if what we say and where we are, is a direct consequence of a sequence that can be traced from a certain point until a specific point.
The South African government has been part of a number of International forums and conventions where we played a meaningful role in contributing to different resolutions that are used globally under the UN.
We have also domesticated a number of those developmental resolutions in our own policies and plans in government.
Furthermore some of those instruments and resolutions are informed by our own domestic policies and plans through our participation at different levels of structures of the United Nations.
The UNDP regional structure responsible for our country has alluded to this point “While significant achievements have already been made in areas such as access to basic water supply, improvement in service delivery remains a priority. Since 1994 South Africa has set out to rigorously dismantle the apartheid system and to create a democratic society based on the principles of equity, non-racialism and non-sexism. To achieve these objectives the Government of South Africa has pledged to promote equality and eradicate poverty.”
This is one of the clear stipulations that reflect the intricate details that distinguish the dialectical relations between the objectives of the NDR and the program of our democratically elected government.
The MDGs established measurable, universally-agreed objectives for eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, preventing deadly but treatable disease, and expanding educational opportunities to all children, among other development imperatives. As a country we have been able to achieve a number of those goals in a form of these deliverables
We have been able to increase income and decrease the levels of poverty, increase access to improved sources of water, increase the primary school enrollment, most especially for young girls and the rural and previously disadvantaged masses, decrease child mortality and eradicated women mortality due to child birth challenges. We have also increased access to ARV’s therefore decreasing the mortality rate in society caused by HIV/AIDS pandemic.
We have now entered into a new paradigm of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals in order to take forward the programs and principles of Millennium Development Goals. Our country’s participation in the UN has contributed a lot in the development of the 17 principles of the SDGs. This was possible because we managed to use our National Development Plan, as a baseline to further the agenda of development of the entire world. With this we are able to play a meaningful role in International Solidarity.
This should make it easier for our nation to pride itself as we continue to ensure that the developmental agenda, started in 1954 and 1955 charters of the people remain the anchor of all our goals, through current policies and legislative processes.
The struggle of the liberation of our people and the attainment of the principles of the Freedom Charter was not meant to end in 1994. As Moses Kotane once said “Revolution Ke Batho”, it will take us as a nation, collectively to move forward or to stagnate. As the conditions in which our revolution’s trajectory changes domestically and internationally, we should never find ourselves despondent when we suffer setbacks or relaxed when we reach certain milestones.
What brings us together as a nation, is the attainment of a non-racial, none sexist and prosperous society that will be characterised by a transformed economy, social well-being and a better life for all
The struggle belongs to us as the people. As a nation we will have to make an introspection of whether we still appreciate where we are going and our leaders need to ensure that they inspire confidence so that our revolution should not be side tracked from its trail.
The movement will have to continue from time to time, to self-evaluate and analyse the environment as we continue to be servants of our people. In all the strides we have made and the new aspirations that are born out of those successes and challenges, we must always remember that this is a legacy left for us, therefore we should handle it with care as we prepare to pass it to those who comes after us.
It is also crucial to ensure that there should never exist a situation where any group in society feels that it alone, must carry the burden of transforming society in order to realise one or another objective of the NDR. For example, to build a non-sexist society remains one of the key programs that the ANC as a movement must lead, equal to other objectives of our revolution. It shouldn’t be left only to ANCWL and other progressive women structures to fight for, it is the responsibility of this movement to defend the gains of women emancipation and prioritise the agenda for the development of women.
It is time that indeed when we make introspection as an organisation, not only should we look at our success on economic issues, but we must prioritise social transformation of not only race nor class, but of the status of women as well. We have witnessed the growing number of interest from Young Women in the programs of the ANCWL. This is a clear indication that the movement has capacity to mobilise this important motive force of our revolution. We need to increase our efforts in addressing the issues raised by these young women in the dialogues that took place during the Local Government Elections, such as the distribution of free sanitary towels or the a total burn of tax on the sale of sanitary towels. We have to find ways of addressing the inaccessibility of education in Institutions of higher learning as a matter of urgency; we need to ensure that there is a traceable upward mobility plan of women in both private and public sectors. It is our immediate responsibility to expedite the creation of sustainable jobs and strengthen the support of our institutions to cater for the plight of young women in the SMME sectors.
Through this, we will be able to register a significant value in how our society transforms itself and continue to carry the agenda of building a National Democratic Society, with the hegemony of the ANC as a leader and the true liberation movement of our people. United we stand!!
CDE MAITE NKOANA-MASHABANE IS A MEMBER OF THE ANC NEC, TREASURER-GENERAL OF THE ANC WOMEN’S LEAGUE (ANCWL) AND MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION.