ANC Women’s League backs its ladies

2013-10-14 10:00

American author Mark Twain said: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

This holds true for the widely publicised statement attributed to the ANC Women’s League about the country not being ready for a female president.

We have come under attack for what is a misrepresentation of our views.

We have also seen many opportunists throwing missiles in our direction.

The symbolic representation of women in political office is an age-old debate in the women’s movement.

Most feminists agree that while not sufficient, the increased representation and presence of women in political office paves the way for this representation to translate into genuine gains for the women’s struggle.

This is a debate we know only too well. We have laboured tirelessly since the early days of our democracy to ensure that the basic tenets around it are adopted by the state.

The fact that we now have 50% female ANC representatives in Parliament is a direct product of the league’s efforts.

The notion that the league is a stumbling block to women’s representation is an unfortunate misrepresentation of our views and serves to strengthen this wrong perception.

Anyone who appreciates our history and the mark made by women would know this is far from the truth and would never be uttered by the league.

How could such a position be advanced by an organisation that has produced so many female authorities who have occupied prominent positions in our society?

It is associated with names like Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and Phumzile Mlambo-Nqcuka – who occupy senior positions in the world’s most powerful multilateral institution, the UN – or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a leader of inordinate qualities and supreme commitment to serving the people of Africa.

With this calibre of women leadership, it is clear there is no organisation more capable of producing women authorities and leaders better than the ANC.

So promoting a stance that is self-defeating and reactionary is the antithesis of the league’s revolutionary record of struggle for women’s emancipation.

Not only have we pushed for measures to increase the representation of women in structures of power, we have also ensured that what feminists call the “politics of presence” translates into genuine victories for all women, especially the poor.

The league championed the cause for the equal representation of women in the ANC as early as 1991.

Although this was largely rejected then, it set the tone for gender struggles in subsequent years.

Even Nelson Mandela said: “After that debate and after the women had demonstrated their intensity of feeling on the issue, the ANC will never be the same again.”

The ANC Women’s League is the same movement that championed the formal recognition of women as equal citizens in our Constitution for the first time in SA’s history.

All these strides and achievements pour cold water on the claims that the league has relegated the struggle for women’s liberation to the back burner.

Like many organisations, the league can be faulted for many things, but discarding its historic mission to serve as a vessel to emancipate women from the bondages of racial, gender and class oppression is definitely not one of them.

»?Ntwanambi is the deputy president of the ANC Women’s League

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