WOMEN’S DAY: NOTHING TO CELEBRATE
‘Even in this day, the face of poverty is African women’, says Ramaphosa
The President told a Women’s Day celebration in KZN that South Africans needed to work very hard to lift women out of poverty and to levels equal to men in all sectors of society.
President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the official Women’s Day celebration in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday amid tight security: police officers on horseback, police Nyalas, uniformed and plainclothes officers, intelligence unit agents as well as a full complement of the presidential security corps.
There had been fears, some voiced on social network posts before the event, that Ramaphosa could be booed, heckled and not allowed to speak.
The crowd, however, welcomed the President, clapping and laughing at his jokes throughout his speech. Ramaphosa said South Africans needed to work very hard to lift women out of poverty and to levels equal to men in all sectors of society.
1956 Women’s March
This year’s Women’s Day celebration marked 66 years since women of all races marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the apartheid pass laws that had been introduced by the government of the then prime minister, JG Strijdom.
Ramaphosa said that despite the vast progress women had made since 1956, their struggles continued. He gave as an example the recently crowned African women’s football champions Banyana Banyana, who earn far less than their male counterparts.
“We still need to uplift women of our country to a level where they are equal to men. Women earn far less than men. It doesn’t make sense that we pay men more than women for the same work.”
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Ramaphosa said the struggle of women in South Africa was far from over and there was “still a mighty struggle that needs to be engaged”. He said in many poor communities, including Richmond, more than half of the households were headed by women.
Poverty and GBV
“Even in this day, the face of poverty is women, the face of poverty is black women, the face of poverty is African women,” he said.
Turning his attention to gender-based violence and femicide, Ramaphosa said his government was worried about the prevalence of violence against women and children perpetrated by men, especially men the victims know and trust. He said the government had made it harder to get bail for violent and sexual crimes and “we have made sentences for these crimes much harsher”.
The event was attended by several dignitaries, including Nomusa Dube-Ncube, the ANC’s preferred candidate for the premier of KwaZulu-Natal following the shock resignation of Sihle Zikalala last week; Siboniso Duma, the recently elected KZN ANC leader; Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa; the Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women and Children, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane; and Minister of Social Development Lindiwe Zulu.
Dube-Ncube said women had to be given economic opportunities, land and other resources to develop themselves and feed their families. She said the KwaZulu-Natal government had ring-fenced 50% of all its procurements for women-led businesses and contractors.
Mama Langa, a leader of the ANC Women’s League from KwaMashu, north of Durban, was at the Women’s Day celebration with a delegation from her branch.
She said women in her area faced challenges that included violence against women and children, rape, poverty and crime.
Whoonga scourge, joblessness, ‘foreign nationals’
“As women, we are worried about the proliferation of drugs in our communities. Our youth are dying and destroyed by drugs such as whoonga; our youth are losing hope and despairing because of a lack of job opportunities, some are abusing alcohol, and girls are involving themselves in unsafe sex.
“We are also worried that our township economies are increasingly being dominated by foreign nationals who are ganging up on businesses owned by locals,” Langa said.
Some women from Richmond did not attend the celebration, saying they had better things to do and had not benefited from the democratic dispensation. One of them is Nozipho Mchunu (38), who has a 10-year-old daughter. Mchunu has been working at a nursery since 2010. She lives in an informal settlement called Gengeshe, outside Richmond.
“We don’t have houses and we want the government to build RDP houses for us. We also want better roads and job opportunities. There are just too many unemployed people in our communities,” she said.
Melisa Thomas (30) is a drug addict from an informal settlement near Richmond. She said she matriculated in 2010, but didn’t have money to further her studies and couldn’t secure a decent job. In despair, she started taking alcohol and later drugs.
“I am still hopeful that I can change and quit the habit if I could go to rehab. My 10-year-old child, who lives with my parents, is not happy about my life and drug addiction. For her, I want to change and quit drugs. I want to start afresh and raise her,” she said.
After his speech, several speakers told Ramaphosa about their challenges and how they want his government to assist them.
Later, Ramaphosa moved to the other stage and danced with the popular gospel singer Thobekile, accompanied by Dube-Ncube and Duma. The crowd roared in approval. DM