Maverick Citizen

Maverick Citizen Editorial

Women’s month: Enough with the platitudes

Women’s month: Enough with the platitudes
Women in Cape Town picket on 1 August 2018 at the #TotalShutDown march against gender-based violence. (Photo by Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

In this week’s editorial the women of Maverick Citizen share their thoughts on how they see and experience Women’s Day and Women’s Month.

“Every day, on average, 137 women are killed by a member of their own family.” (Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN under-secretary-general and UN Women executive director, March 2021.)

In a world of pandemics and wars and killings, numbers can easily become meaningless, simply because they are so abstract and often hard to imagine or visualise. But think about it: 137 women are killed… every day… not by a stranger, not by some random person, but by a member of their own family… a father, a husband, a partner, a child, an uncle, a grandfather. A woman is killed by someone who should be their protector, their companion, their safe place, their shield, the person who should offer them unconditional love. However, in the eyes of some, the mere fact that she is born and a specific gender makes her fair game, a punchbag, a target for rage and hatred and murder. An inferior being.

So, this Women’s Month, don’t offer me a “Happy Women’s Day” message, don’t send me your cute gifs and videos and graphics. 

Government, don’t invite me to your jamborees, your festivals, your speeches. For once, put your money where your mouth is and invest in research, education, scholar transport, job creation, drug rehabilitation programmes, campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption… the list is endless. One day is not going to cut the mustard; make the rest of 2021 and the whole of 2022 about women, make it 365 days of Women’s Year – the return on your investment might surprise you. – Maverick Citizen Managing Editor Anso Thom.

In life, I never had the privilege of having strong female influences to look up to. Never have I witnessed first-hand women who are sharp and fierce and also kind and warm; because of that I want to be that woman for someone together with many other women already at it. The power of women coming together is unstoppable and should be stronger now more than ever.

With the reality so bleak, the system so weak. Nothing is more frustrating than uncertainty and a structural system that fails to administer justice for women and girls who are not equal or safe anywhere. Together as women, we need to build bold and self-conscious inner selves as this has become more imperative to face every day.

This Women’s Month let’s pledge to fix each other’s crowns, making sure a woman wins. To do so let us fill each other’s cups with care, love, respect, wisdom, understanding. Above all else let’s share the intimacy of true, equal and unshakeable sisterhood.

What does sisterhood mean to you? 

“Sisterhood means bringing together girls and women to uplift and empower them to be confident within themselves and to be a light to others around them! It is about accepting one another and being on the journey to learn and grow together.” – Faith, Secret Sister

We might be different in personalities, shapes, sizes, cultural tradition and colour, but that acceptance of difference is the opposite of what we sometimes see in the wider society – and it’s all the more precious and remarkable. It is the sameness in our differences.

My dear beautiful, strong woman. No more excuses. No more lowering your standards. Take charge and make your dreams come true. Love being a woman because you are born of and for greatness and won’t be stopped.

Malibongwe igama lamakhosikazi!Maverick Citizen journalist Michelle Banda

It has been another year since the air was thick with promises, heartfelt undertakings, rhetoric promising not to fail in addressing gender-based violence.

And yet, here we are. 

After a year of hell. Survivors of gender-based violence were discussed in ministerial briefings – because it is easy to be outraged if you were not the one who got set alight by a boyfriend. And nothing much was done.

The system to test DNA in rape cases is still so deeply broken that there are doubts whether it can be fixed – giving thousands of possible rapists a chance to go free. Many shelters for survivors of domestic abuse are still unfunded or funded in such a haphazard way that it makes them dependent on winning the bureaucratic lottery to survive. Worrying reports surfaced several times in the year that there were no DNA testing kits.

Many rural communities are still without water, leaving women exposed to danger and crime as they are the ones to fetch water.

Our grandmothers, moms and babies are still exposed to possible coronavirus infection as long lines have become a fixture of a broken primary healthcare system. After many years of talk, teenagers are still scared to go to the clinic.

Home Affairs is leaving hundreds of women without IDs and officials seem to still invent new ways to make it really difficult for women to get birth certificates for cases that do not fit on a checklist.  

Protection orders are still fairly difficult to obtain and almost impossible to enforce.

In a country that celebrates Women’s Day with such enthusiasm one would have expected some results by now. Yet… here we are.

It is time for our ministers and entrenched bureaucrats with their million-rand annual salaries to be held accountable for their failure to prioritise and fix these issues.

Because, until then, women will only be a priority on 9 August when it is easy. It is time to do the hard things. – Estelle Ellis, Maverick Citizen senior journalist (based in the Eastern Cape)

Women’s Day, and by extension Women’s Month, in South Africa has always been odd; even the awkward commemorations and platitudes that come from men make one wince a little. I’m not sure being wished a “Happy Women’s Day” is the right framing for the day. It really isn’t about celebrating being a woman more than recognising the deliberate challenges society has placed and continues to place in the path of women’s success and self-actualisation. 

A deeper examination and reflection are needed from us as a people on why we subscribe to a culture that is comfortable with the elevation of men, their needs, their successes, their careers and their futures above those of women. We also need to reflect on the damaging effect of a society that sees the empowerment and independence of women as a threat and would rather placate us with empty slogans about being strong and pink-hued flattery on our beauty. 

I personally have no interest in suffering through the unnecessary hurdles placed before us as women in order for me to gain the titles of being “strong” and “resilient” conferred on us by our patriarchal society. All I’m looking for is an equal opportunity to live and express myself unfettered by the fear and constraints that characterise male dominance. Because this only begs the question: what repercussions am I likely to face should I not fit into the neatly allocated boxes? 

So, this Women’s Month I won’t be participating in any of the contrived “women empowerment” events or saying thank you for being allocated a month to “celebrate being a woman”. I am a woman every day, every hour, every second and that means waking up every day and deciding for myself the kind of woman I choose to be. – Maverick Citizen journalist Zukiswa Pikoli. DM/MC


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • chris campbell says:

    The world would be a better place if Men understood a woman chose to give you life.
    A woman does not have to give you life. She gives you life and then we (men)can not say thank you for giving me life! The world needs more women in positions of power. Better systems of education and the justice system should be more woman centric.

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