Women’s Charter, 62 years ago

2016-08-10 06:00

NATIONAL Women’s Day took place yesterday, Tuesday 9 August.
It is more than likely that most South Africans enjoyed the day as just another public holiday without being aware of the important history of the day.

In 1954 the Federation of South African Women adopted a charter­ which expressed the philosophy and aims of the newly established­ federation at its founding conference in Johannesburg.

It is interesting, in terms of the current situation in the country and the emphasis on gender quality since 1994 to review some of the requirements of the Charter as follows:

“We, the women of South Africa, wives and mothers, working women and housewives, African, Indians, European and Coloured, hereby declare our aim of striving for the removal of all laws, regulations, conventions and customs that discriminate against us as women, and that deprive us in any way of our inherent right to the advantages, responsibilities and opportunities that society offers to any one section of the population.

“We women do not form a society separate from the men.
“There is only one society, and it is made up of both women and men.
“As women we share the problems and anxieties of our men, and join hands with them to remove social evils and obstacles to progress.”
Despite the amazing progress that has been made the following paragraph on “need for education” is perhaps the least fulfilled in the past 62 years:

“We also recognise that large numbers of our womenfolk continue to be bound by traditional practices and conventions, and fail to realise that these have become obsolete and a brake on progress.
“It is our duty and privilege to enlist all women in our struggle for emancipation and to bring to them all realisation of the intimate relationship that exists between their status of inferiority as women and the inferior status to which their people are subjected by discriminatory laws and colour prejudices.”

“Many of the aims declared in the Charter have been met, but there is still much required:

• Equal rights with men in relation to property, marriage and children, and for the removal of all laws and customs that deny women such equal rights.

• For the development of every child through free compulsory education for all, for the protection­ of mother and child through maternity homes, welfare clinics, creches and nursery schools, in countryside and towns, through proper homes for all, and through the provision of water, light, transport, sanitation, and other amenities of modern civilisation.

• To strive for permanent peace throughout the world.”
- South African History Online.

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