Today marks the beginning of Women’s Month. During this month, we pay tribute to millions of South African women for their selfless contribution in the liberation struggle and for their continued efforts in rebuilding our nation.
On the 9th of August 1956, more than 20 000 women from all walks of life embarked on a historic mass demonstrations at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. They protested against the unjust pass laws enforced on women by the then Apartheid regime. The march was led by struggle stalwarts such as Lillian Ngoyi, a fiery trade unionist and political activist, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu and Sophie Williams du Bruyn, among others.
Women’s Month is an opportunity for all South Africans to take stock of the progress we have made since 1994 to build a non-sexist society. This is also an opportunity to celebrate women’s achievements and the important role that all women of South Africa have played and continue to play in the evolution of a democratic and non-sexist South African society.
The African National Congress urges South Africans to use this occasion as a platform to refocus the attention of the nation on the rights of women and to assess how far we have come on the journey towards women empowerment and gender equality. Proceeding from the premise that the struggle for liberation was the struggle for the emancipation of all our people, including women, the ANC believes that the 1994 democratic breakthrough has registered significant progress in restoring the dignity of women.
Through the Constitution and an array of other measures introduced since 1994, the position and conditions of women in our country has improved markedly. The living conditions of the majority of ordinary women have undergone significant qualitative change. Women now have access to services and positions that were a dream only a mere twenty-five years ago. Thanks to the 1994 democratic breakthrough, women now occupy influential positions in government and in civil society. They continue to play important roles in decision-making processes of the nation.
Consistent with the ANC’s long-standing commitment to affirm women, women’s representation in the public service and political decision-making continues to grow in South Africa. The ANC is, however, concerned that in corporate South Africa, women representation at senior management and executive level still leaves much to be desired.
The ANC as a leader of society is the only party with a gender parity policy, and which integrates non-sexism in all its policies, leadership structures and programmes. The NEC has adopted the ANC Policy on Sexual Harassment in the Work Environment, and further agreed to adopt a broader organisation-wide Sexual Harassment Policy
As the ANC, we are painfully aware that the struggle for women emancipation is far from over. While significant strides have been made to empower women and promote gender equality, we must concede that women still bear a disproportionate burden of the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. The rural profile of South Africa continues to be one of female-headed households, growing poverty, human rights abuses and increased gender-based violence, unemployment and high prevalence of HIV and AIDS. Women continue to be marginalized and discriminated against in terms of economic opportunities and in the labour market.
Gender-based violence continues to rob women of the opportunity to become productive citizens of the country. It denies them their constitutional rights and condemns them to a life of perpetual fear. They are therefore prevented from enjoying the fruits of our freedom and democracy. We urge the criminal justice system to show no mercy to perpetrators of gender-based violence.
The ANC urges its members and all South Africans to participate actively in all Women’s Month programmes that will be led by the ANC Women’s League.
ISSUED BY THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
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