60 years on, women still not seen as equals… Or are they?
2016 marks 60 years since the most celebrated women’s March to the Union Buildings, and in 60 years, women have the right to vote, and venture into places and spaces once deemed taboo. Although there have been many instances where women were treated in an unequal manner, there has been, over history, situations where women have taken their power back.
1905 – Charlotte Maxeke becomes the first black woman to earn a Bachelors Degree in South Africa
1956 – Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa & Sophia Williams led a march to the Union Buildings to protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act also known as “pass laws”
1962 – despite being under house arrest along with many women in the country, Lillian Ngoyi earns her LLB degree and is admitted to the Supreme Court of South Africa as an Advocate
1994 – Frene Gingwala is elected the first Speaker of Parliament in the democratic South Africa. In the same year, women held one-third of the seats in the provincial assemblies
The above are instances where women saw opportunities to change the status quo and disrupt the norm. Post-1994, there has been an increase in the number of women in top positions, as well as more women-led businesses that are making a significant impact on the economy of the country. These are not only a result of the many opportunities that have been made available to women, but also due to the bravery and confidence that these women have displayed and continue to do every day.
The recent events following the National Municipal elections in South Africa have sparked a very contentious but necessary conversation. A conversation about rape, how 1 in 3 women in South Africa is raped every day, a conversation that calls for accountability from the highest position in the land. One could ask why it’s so important for us all to “remember Khwezi”, why we need to keep disrupting the status quo? Well here’s my take.
Khwezi is a name that was heard all over our radios and televisions 10 years ago. Back then, inequality was still a subject that was taboo in most households. Though women in South Africa had the same rights as everyone else, the system still disadvantaged them.
Though these disruptions mainly put a spotlight on political accountability and rape, I saw something different. I saw a generation of young women taking a stand and pushing the equality agenda. Those young ladies indirectly urged the whole country to see women as equals, in households, communities and most importantly in business.
This women’s day, I urge all women across the country to make use of all the opportunities that have been made available, in the same spirit of the strong women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956. Do something to change the future and continue to push boundaries; for yourself; but most importantly, so that the girl child will one day be inspired and brave enough to do the same when her time comes.