The African National Congress salutes millions of women across the length and breadth of South Africa as we commemorate National Women’s Day. On this day, 64 years ago, thousands of militant and fearless women marched to the Union Buildings to register their protest against the draconian and oppressive pass laws imposed by the apartheid regime.
We are marking this year’s Women’s Month under the theme: “Realising women’s rights for an equal future”. This is a clarion call to mobilise the country to champion women’s rights and gender equality. This year’s Women’s Day is a call to action to achieve gender equality in our lifetime.
ANC only accepted women as members at the 1943 conference, and in 1948, the ANC Women’s League was formed. The ANC recognized and witnessed the work and dedication of the league and asked it to help in organizing the 1955 Congress of the People, where the Freedom Charter was adopted. Women saw the leverage this gave them and took the opportunity to demand that their demands be incorporated into the charter. This was a conscious decision by the movement to ensure that women play a critical role in the struggle for liberation, particularly against patriarchy.
In its recent meeting the NEC recommitted the ANC to mobilising all South Africans in the struggle to build a non-sexist South Africa, by confronting patriarchy in all its manifestations, including fighting gender-based violence, reducing the gender pay gap and the economic marginalisation of women, reproductive health and other aspects that maintain women’s inequality.
The ANC belives that Women’s Day is an important platform to focus the nation’s attention to the rights of women and to assess the distance we have travelled as a nation on the journey towards women empowerment and gender equality.
As a nation, we have a duty to accelerate our advance towards ending gender discrimination and to promote the rights of women and girls in all aspects of life, including the economy.
As we remember the veterans of the 1956 march, we must make a solemn pledge never to betray the ideals and aspirations that inspired them. In this regard, the ANC will neve rest until the goals of gender equality women’s rights and the end to gender-based violence have been achieved.
The ANC believes that the 1994 breakthrough has registered significant progress with regard to the position amd conditions.of women in South Africa. An array of measures introduced by the ANC government has contributed towards restoring the dignity of women, including availing more opportunities and access to services for women. Yet, we remain painfully aware that the struggle for women emancipation is far from over. Women still bear a disproportionate burden of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Poverty and unemployment in South Africa continue to bear a black female face. Women continue to be marginalized and discriminated against in terms of economic opportunities and in the labour market. They continue to suffer human rights abuses and gender-based violence. .
Gender-based violence continues to be a dark spot in our democratic society. It denies women the opportunity to be productive citizens of their own country as it condemns them to a life of perpetual fear.
One of our biggest challenges in the fight against women abuse continues to be silence from both victims and perpetrators. The ANC urges South Africans to break the silence on gender-based violence and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.
We are encouraged by the ANC government’s determination to eradicate gender-based violence. Three Bills have just been passed by the National Assembly, namely, Criminal.Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Bill of 2020; National Register for Sexual Offences) and the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill. These Bills seek to support and protect victims of gender-based violence. They are consistent with calls made during the Presidential Summit Against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide held two years ago. We are confident that once passed, these laws will be a powerful ammunition in the hands of women and law-enforcement agencies.
The ANC believes that the role of men is key if the scourge of gender-based violence is to be effectively defeated and eliminated from our society. As perpertrators, men must be mobilsed behind the campaign to end gender-based violence. Men must stand up say: Not in my name! They must be part of the struggle to build a society where women can reclaim their dignity, where they can be safe and can enjoy freedom from violence and fear.
As part of mobilising men in the national effort to end gender-based violence, the ANC will facilitate a Men’s Dialogue event on the 14th of February, which will provide a platform for men from different civil society organisations and sectors to engage with the ANC and its President, Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa. The key objective of this engagement is share ideas that would help shape a programme of action in the fight against GBV. The Men’s Dialogue will be hosted by the Western Cape and Northern Cape.
The NEC has made a call to all its structures to campaign alongside all sectors of society against gender-based violence, and to involve men and boys in eradicating the culture of violence and toxic masculinity in order to build a truly non-sexist society.
The ANC urges all members of society to help expose and isolate perpetrators of violence against women and unite in support of the victims.
The ANC is confident that the criminal justice system will continue to be firm and merciless against those found guilty of gender-based violence.
Issued by the African National Congress
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