Throughout history, we have seen countless examples of women who have fearlessly spoken out and stood their ground against injustice and corruption, often at great personal risk. From grassroots activists to prominent leaders, women have consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to exposing the truth and fighting against the corrosive effects of corruption.
Key factors that contribute to the bravery of women in this context are their unique perspectives and lived experiences. Being marginalised and oppressed is a fate that has been piled on the backs of women for many centuries and across numerous societies. Accordingly, women have a first-hand understanding of the consequences of irrational policies that have subjected them to oppression and underdevelopment.
In South Africa, the Women’s March on 9 August 1956 against the pass laws and the injustices of apartheid was momentous and successful in highlighting the plight of millions of people based on the colour of their skin.
Women have an innate ability to display great quantities of resilience, tenacity and intimate care for humanity, which are important ingredients in their determination to challenge and demand accountability from those who abuse their power.
Corruption is destructive and robs society of much-needed resources, weighing heaviest on the poorest of the poor. This factor of a heavier burden on those who are defenceless awakens the nurturing and empathetic qualities in women and triggers their natural inclination to tackle issues that threaten the wellbeing of humanity and communities, not only in the present but of future generations. This compassion-driven courage also enables women to forge alliances, bridge divides and rally support for their causes, creating a powerful force for positive change.
As caregivers and educators, women understand that a fight against corruption is a fight for a better future for their children and grandchildren, even when faced with adversity and opposition.
It goes without saying that bravery in speaking out against corruption is not exclusive to women. Men too have played instrumental roles in challenging corruption and championing truth. However, it is the distinct qualities and perspectives that women bring to the table that make their contributions impactful and essential in the broader struggle for justice and integrity.
At the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) NGO, we regularly engage with whistle-blowers and our experience is that women outnumber men in the reporting of corrupt activities and conduct. Our observation of women who blow the whistle on corruption is their extreme determination and bold steps, with their motivation coming from a deep sense of responsibility and a desire for positive change.
I vividly recall the first case we took on at Outa in 2016 after we expanded our mandate beyond the irrational e-toll policy. It was an engagement with Cynthia Stimpel, the SAA treasury manager who exposed and helped us prevent the unnecessary enrichment of a small but well “connected” advisory firm, to the tune of R249-million.
Since then the Outa investigations and project management teams have engaged with more brave and courageous women who have shovelled large doses of “truth snuff” up the noses of their bosses and colleagues, and helped us build strong cases to expose their errant ways.
In the big exposé of corporate corruption at LeisureNet, it was a brave Wendy Addison who spoke out and exposed the greed and self-enrichment by executives at the expense of shareholders. As is so often the case, she was suspended and subjected to immense pressure, forcing her to flee to England for her safety.
Then, having secured a job with Richard Branson’s Virgin Group in London, Addison was again victimised and pushed out of his company when they were alerted to her role in exposing the Health & Racquet Club fraud in South Africa.
Instead of commending her for her courage, the Virgin Group bailed out and revived the mega-gym consortium in South Africa and fired Addison, once again subjecting her and her 10-year-old son to gross hardship.
While August is the month that recognises the excellence and attributes of the women of South Africa, it’s important that we celebrate every single day the invaluable contributions of women in the ongoing battle against corruption.
We need to let the bravery of Babita Deokaran shine bright every day as a reminder of her courage, which unfortunately led to her assassination two years ago all because she decided not to look the other way and chose to expose corruption at the Gauteng Department of Health.
Let us salute and pay tribute to women who give more, at the risk of their lives and livelihood, to create a more just and equitable world for all. DM