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Gender equity will happen only with a major change in mindset, Ramphele tells gathering

Gender equity will happen only with a major change in mindset, Ramphele tells gathering
Veteran South African political leader Mamphela Ramphele. (Photo: Gallo Images / Financial Mail / Martin Rhodes)

‘We don’t have to emulate men to be powerful leaders — lead in your femininity, you don’t have to wear ties and be part of the boys’ club,’ said Struggle veteran Dr Mamphela Ramphele at the inaugural gathering of the South African Women’s Commission.

Providing women with quality education, safety and security, and creating an entrepreneurial mindset for job creation are some of the ways to liberate women, according to the newly created South African Women’s Commission.  

Women from all over the country who are finding innovative ways to uplift their communities gathered for the first instalment of the commission in Rivonia, Johannesburg on Saturday.

“Having a national Constitution and laws that require gender equity is not enough; South Africa does not yet have visible and strong positive models of gender equity as the established norm almost three decades since we got into the constitutional law. This tells me that we have a major task of mindset change, this is the critical factor,” said Ramphele in her keynote address.

“Our country’s freedom from racist, colonial oppression was won through mindset change. My generation of black students woke up one day, all this time we were calling ourselves non-whites, and non-Europeans and we thought we could fight and win. It wouldn’t happen, for as long as we saw being European and white as the standard by which we measured ourselves we would always feel inferior.

“It was only when we stood up and said, ‘We are black, we are proud and we have a proud history as African people’, it was that realisation that led to a massive conscientisation of students that ultimately led to the uprisings of 1976… that liberated us from mental slavery. We now, as women in this country, as men, need urgently to liberate ourselves from the mental slavery that tells us that women are the property of men.

“We showed [in the 1976 uprising] that by not encouraging, embracing gender equality we are robbing society of the power, creativity and energy of women,” said Ramphele.

The commission is the brainchild of social entrepreneur and founder of African Pursuit, Nobuntu Hlazo-Webster, who pitched it to women she admired, such as Natalie Maimane of the One South Africa Movement.

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Maimane drew on her experience as a former teacher and noted how unbalanced the scales are in the South African education sector.

“There is a diminishing belief that government can deliver in the education sector; government seems to be focused on compliance and academic performance. Though the budget for education is relatively high, there is a limited vision for education in our nation. Our education is not equal, our pass rate for completion of matric amongst white and Indian children is around 80%, whereas amongst black and coloured children it is just above 50%,” said Maimane.

The common thread in the panel discussion on education was that children in rural and township areas need quality education, not just access to education, which would mean catering to psychosocial needs, cultivating a good sense of self, mitigating socioeconomic situations such as hunger, and creating awareness that there are possibilities beyond their lived experience of poverty, gender-based violence and other recurrent themes children and, in particular, young girls are often faced with in disadvantaged communities. 

“Our education system can’t be held to just compliance and ticking boxes — we owe it to our children to give them value in their education,” said Maimane.

Safety and security

Kavisha Pillay from Corruption Watch said poor policing and a weak police presence exacerbate gender-based violence.

“I was recently in Umlazi, a community of about 500,000 people, but there are about four police vehicles available for the area. Police are under-resourced,” said Pillay.

“We first need to look at the data, know and understand what your local police station is supposed to provide, and pit that against the services it does provide.”

Last year, Corruption Watch launched an innovative tool that provides data on all 1,150 police stations across the country in response to the many whistle-blower complaints it received about police corruption. The tool helped them identify that: “Out of over 1,000 police stations only about 100 have designated units to deal with GBV,” said Pillay. DM/MC


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Malcolm McManus says:

    “for as long as we saw being European and white as the standard by which we measured ourselves we would always feel inferior”. I suspect this is still the case, hence BBBEE.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


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