Today marks the 63rd anniversary of the 1956 Women’s March against the pass laws, as well as 25 years of freedom and democracy in South Africa, a day that has culminated into the Women’s Day public holiday.
But the focus has shifted for today’s Women’s Day. Speaking at the official celebrations that took place at the Dr Ruth Segomotsi District in the North West, President Cyril Ramaphosa drew attention to the fight against gender-based violence which still exists in society.
“Let us be the generation that will end sexism, patriarchy and the generation that will be putting an end to violence against women in all its forms. Let us be the generation that realises economic emancipation in our country,” he said.
Picking up from the declaration against gender-based violence and femicide that was signed last year, Ramaphosa said that a number of advances have since been made.
“A gender-based violence steering committee will soon begin provincial consultations on the national strategy plan to end gender based violence. The department of justice is in the process of amending the national policy framework on the management of sexual offences. We are reviewing the Domestic Violence Act to strengthen its provisions around domestic homicide and the enforcement of protection orders,” he said.
Part of the proposed amendments will now include members of the LGBTQI+ communities as well as other marginalised victims.
“As men we become partners in abuse when we remain silent as other men use money and violence to dominate their girlfriends and wives,” the president warned.
He also paid tribute to struggle stalwart Ruth Mompati who passed away in 2015 and was born in a small village of Tlapeng not far from Vryburg, where the morning’s events took place.
“Mama Ruth was a stalwart of the liberation movement, a freedom fighter and a committed gender activist. She was among the great leaders of her generation,” Ramaphosa said.
Paying tribute to the current generation of trailblazers, Ramaphosa mentioned several women who are achieving greatness in various fields including science and farming.
“They are pathfinders like Dr Mary-Jane Bopane, the chief scientist for weather research at the South African weather service, who is leading a specialist team to produce this country’s first ever weather and climate change modelling system,” he said.
Ramaphosa also spoke about how far the country had come in closing the gender gap in the workplace.
“Today women comprise 58% of all students enrolled at universities and colleges around the country. Forty seven percent of MPs are women. This year we achieved a 50/50 gender parity among Cabinet ministers for the first time,” he said.
He said that South Africa had a good measure of peace for both women and men, and it was something that all South Africans should commit themselves to.
“Today we can commit to bringing an end to all the things like patriarchy. We say we want to strengthen the resolve of all our women in our country.”
He called upon the men in South Africa to support women, in all forms.
“We want to make sure that men ensure that there is true emancipation of the women in our country,” he said.
Speaking ahead of the president, Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Maite Nkoane-Mashabane drew attention to the #WhatWomenWant gender equality campaign, which was launched ahead of the Women’s Day celebrations.
She said it wasn’t about discriminating against gender, but rather meant to be used as a tool to introduce South Africa to inspirational women.
“This is not [just] another day. It’s a day when women marched to eradicate apartheid, but they are still caught up in real economic emancipation as the rest of all South Africans are,” she said.
She called on South Africans to work together towards a stronger citizenry.
“Unity is our strength. We will march together to a true freedom, encouraged and empowered by the theme of this day, and also encouraged by the fact that we will bury gender-based violence and femicide in this administration and beyond, within the next 10 years,” she said.