Women’s Month: We Need Sombre Commemoration

At the beginning of women’s month in South Africa, we must recognize that our transformation is still an incomplete one, and that inequality, GBV and unemployment still loom over us.

We can safely say that we have achieved many things, including our democratic society.

But we have not yet arrived in the country our Constitution envisions, one of equality, dignity for all, and shared prosperity.

Too many of our people are still without jobs, too many struggle to access quality public services, our economy remains highly unequal, and despite real efforts, the Covid and post-Covid era has had a much heavier effect on the poor and vulnerable. The devastating effects of these realties are there for us to see .

The sense of an incomplete journey, and the sense of there being some reversal of progress, is starkly embodied when we think of women and girls in South Africa.

History suggests that there is a shadow side to  being human, and in South Africa this is often inflicted on women and girls through gender-based violence.

It is incomprehensible that almost no woman feels safe in our country. This lack of safety restricts personal freedoms and the very quality of life of women, who in addition often disproportionately bear the burden of poverty as sole providers for their families.

At the Motsepe Foundation, we have reflected over many years on what Women’s Month means and how we can best work in the service of women.

We must, I believe, firstly continue to actively commemorate the many women who preceded us, who struggled, who suffered, who died, for equality and dignity for all our people and in particular for women. Their legacy is a vital one.

We must also continue to work together to find ways to curb the scourge of violence in our society by teaching boys to respect women and girls, and by showing no tolerance for the  toxic masculinity so rampant in our patriarchal system.

We must also bring a sense of urgency of implementation to the many interventions proposed by government and other stakeholders.

Equally important, I believe, is continuing to celebrate what many women and girls are achieving right now, often in the face of immense, heart-breaking  obstacles.

The African  Women Chartered  Accountants recently celebrated our Auditor General- Tsakani Maluleke, who is a shining example for all youth and for all young girls to emulate.

It is so important that our girls and young women have role models that inspire, that teach, that show what is possible.

But right now, women’s month does in some ways need to be a sombre commemoration and a muted celebration, informed by the awareness that full economic inclusion is still not a reality, and that many women and girls continue to suffer under GBV every day.

African Fashion International has contributed to the fight against GBV, by joining the private sector in donating funds to the government-pled Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Fund (GBVF), to alleviate the surge of GBV cases that was experienced during the pandemic lockdown phase.

Through the contributions of women who attended last year’s Power To Empower event, AFI and the Motsepe Foundation’s Gender Equality, Wellness and Leadership Unit (GEWAL) further committed to provide in-kind support to more than 1,300 survivors of GBV at 71 shelters in Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Western Cape.

We will be providing similar support this women’s month, and at our Power To Empower gathering later in the month we will build on this this work with a soon-to-be-launched campaign that will see creatives put their hat in the ring and contribute to fight against GBV.

Our theme this year is  “Drive Your Vision” and it will be a celebration of women successfully driving their vision, and going against the odds stacked against them. We are proud to invite Banyana Banyana to this day.

Recently in Morocco, I was privileged to witness them win their 1st Africa Cup competition. It was a fierce and nerve wrecking encounter and Banyana and their coach, Desiree Ellis, were determined to bring the Cup back home. We applaud them. We celebrate their success with them.

I am sure you, like me, want to  hear  their stories, their key tips on how to win, how to prepare yourself for the big day, the importance of successfully driving your vision and how to use the power you have to empower other women.

But the success of Banyana has also shown just how steep the hill can be that women need to climb to be treated and compensated equally for their efforts, and I will also be exploring  this glaring issue of pay equity in our society, be it in sports or the corporate world.

This month, the Motsepe Foundation will also be holding a coding for girls’ workshop: we need stronger gender equality in tech, not only ethically, but because this ensures socially responsive innovation and builds a pipeline to provide the much needed skills and  to close the gap in women leadership positions in key sectors of our economy.

We will also be hosting our Entrepreneurial Golden Circle again, where young entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas and start-ups and stand a chance to win cash and support. We will be focusing on young female entrepreneurs whose start-ups can be profitable and sustainable as well as have potential social impact. These events help show what is possible, and help address the low funding rate for women owned businesses that we are all aware of. 

There is a need for sombre recognition of the challenges we still face, but there is equally a need to use hope, conversation, and real inspiration to generate momentum in the needed direction.

I want to urge all South Africans, women, and men, to work together, and to make this month the beginning of permanent, decisive change in the lives of our women and girls. We must build a better future for our women, and our youth, especially our girls.

Let us honour and emulate, always, the work started by the 20 000 women who marched to Pretoria to ensure our freedom and democracy.

Published : The Star 10 August 2022