We salute President Jacob Zuma for inviting women especially from the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) from across the country to be part of this year’s Women’s Day celebrations at the Union Buildings.
We used this historic occasion to draw strength from the women of 1956- who remained united and fought against the brutality of the apartheid regime.
We commit ourselves to continue with the struggle of the women of ‘56 but with more energy and vibrancy: characteristics of the ANCYL.
The young women of today must arm themselves with the capacity to respond to the challenges that face society today.
History has not imposed the same responsibility to the young women as was the case in 1950s, 60’s and 70s. There is no need to for the supreme sacrifice as it happened to the many young people whose lives were cut short.
The women of yesteryear brought us political freedom through the liberation first stage of the National Democratic Revolution.
Our task is a different one. It entails more than just attainment of what has been defined in classical terms as ‘bourgeoisie democracy’. It is a fundamental programme of transformation of society led by the motive forces – which are the classes and social strata that stand to benefit most from the process of change.
As the ANCYL we believe that we owe to the women of 1956 to continue with the constant mobilization of masses of our people to be the architects and masters of their own development and advancement.
This means that we need to utilize the democracy and political freedom that has been achieved to fight for equality: and the economic power and emancipation of women in particular.
One of the greatest achievements of our democratic dispensation was the creation of a more inclusive, representative local government system.
We salute all women who participated in the build up to the 2016 municipal elections, especially members of the ANCYL who mobilized communities to vote for the ANC.
Reports in the media and various research organizations point out that women constituted the highest number of voters.
ANC members and ordinary members of society who have expressed their concerns about the performance of the ANC know that local government is a fundamental tenet of participatory democracy, aimed at ensuring that our people at local levels enjoy freedom and democracy.
Perhaps the question that we need to ask is what is Freedom?
Freedom refers to a state of complete psycho social and economic emancipation, to live free of oppression and prejudice based on social status, race, gender and other considerations.
Freedom that coexists with under-development and deep poverty is not true freedom.
Freedom is indivisible—there can be no freedom for some and not for all.
In the Western Cape, Cape Town, Midvaal and various municipalities where the Democratic Alliance (DA) is governing, the party has ensured that the majority of people remain excluded from accessing economic opportunities brought about by this democratic government.
In ANC run municipalities, we have seen many communities that were previously neglected having access to electricity, water and other basic services.
Chapter 7 of the country’s Constitution has clearly positioned the sphere of local government to become an instrument for the transformation of society.
As the ANCYL we declared 2016 as the Year of the Youth.
That is why we were working towards ensuring that 40 % of councilors represent youth – as the population of this country is largely young.
This has been a non-negotiable. The future of the young people of this country is in their hands. It cannot be postponed.
We campaigned for the youth to be elected to be mayors and speakers into councils of metros, district and local municipalities.
Our view is that young people who come to leadership positions at an early age will become a real human resources investment for this country. It is becoming a global trend for young people to assume leadership positions in their countries. South Africa is a respected global player because we are always in line with global trends.
As we approach the inauguration of councils in various municipalities, as the ANCYL we undertake to ensure that all young women who have been deployed by the ANC as councilors undergo rigorous induction and skills development programmes to prepare them to execute the mandate of the ANC.
The transformation of society cannot be achieved without the empowerment of women.
Importantly, we want them to ensure that municipalities have socio economic development programmes that are aligned to gender mainstreaming.
As guided by the National Development Plan (NDP) the ANCYL will work towards ensuring that municipalities are supported in developing Integrated Development Plans and in driving local economic development – to ensure that the identified sectors create job opportunities for the women at local level.
The ANCYL will ensure that ANC-led municipalities put programmes of economic transformation at the top of their agendas. Such transformation must result in the empowerment of women.
We are confident that with young people at the helm of municipalities, such youth leaders will work for the creation of an environment conducive to learning and teaching, fighting crime and ensuring peace and stability.
They will work with all young people, to build a better future for themselves and the coming generations. They will motivate the youth to participate in skills development programs, thus enabling them to be the agents of change in their local municipalities.
We envision a future where every young person will be armed with a skill, a trade, a qualification and knowledge that they can apply instantly.
We envision a future in which the scope of possible professions, skills, trades, qualifications and knowledge areas for young people of this country will be expanded in line with global trends.
Gone are the days where young people are only told that they must look for jobs, as the only option to starting a working life.
We see a future where, as a result of being skilled, in a wide variety of fields, young people will become entrepreneurs of note, competing with the best in the world, and in line with global trends.
Our young councilors will mobilize communities for the participation in the structures of governance such as hospital boards, ward committees, development committees, clinic committees and many formal and informal governance structures, inside and outside municipal structures.
Our young councilors will pay regular visits to the places and homes of the less fortunate, the indigent, the poor, churches and schools so as to ensure that South Africa becomes the country that cares for its citizens. Such caring will be felt at the level of every ward when our young people become ANC councilors this year.
They will also participate in grassroots programmes to ensure access to quality services and the fight against serious diseases such HIV and AIDS, TB, diseases of lifestyles, cancer etc.
We want to unleash a new leadership of young people who will act as peer educators acting as agents of change and focusing on saving other young people from the AIDS pandemic and other social ills.
The Blesser and Blesses pandemic must come to an end as it has no place in our society, young women must choose education over blessers because it only education that will deliver them to a better life.
Young people and women in particular hold the key to the future but unfortunately, as they grow; they are increasingly exposed to reproductive health risks such as sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.
Limited access to economic opportunities and prevailing poverty has added to women’s vulnerability.
It is for these reasons as the ANCYL we want young women in leadership positions in various municipalities in order to usher in a new era.
We will ensure that women councilors are well versed with the provisions of the National Health Insurance.
Importantly, as we move forward, we are sharpening our campaigns aimed at promoting behavioral change amongst the youth.
CDE. THANDI MORAKA IS ANCYL DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL