Ramaphosa: Women’s Day celebrations stained by gender-based violence

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An audience attending a Women's Day celebration. Photo: GCIS
An audience attending a Women's Day celebration. Photo: GCIS

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“Several women feel that it’s a burden to be a woman in South Africa as they have had enough of being afraid or being attacked in their own homes.”

This was expressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa when he delivered a keynote address during the Women’s Day celebration held on Wednesday at Silahla Sport Field in Richmond at the uMgungundlovu District Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal.

Earlier in the day, Ramaphosa received a warm welcome from thousands of people who had filled up the marquee.

There was singing and ululation as he walked to the stage. A group of ANC Women’s League members led struggle songs and various political organisations joined in the singing.

“Gender-based violence (GBV) continues to be a stain on our celebration today. Hardly a day goes by without a woman being violated or killed by a man and this has to stop.

“The women of South Africa have had enough of being afraid. They are afraid to go out after dark, afraid of being attacked in their own homes or being preyed on in the classroom. These women are also afraid for the safety of their children, even from their own relatives. A number of them have said it is a burden to be a woman in South Africa. We should not see this as a woman’s problem, but as a man’s problem. It is a problem of men who have no respect for women and feel that they can do whatever they like with their girlfriends or partners. It is the problem of men who think that culture, custom and religion empower them to hit their girlfriends, daughters and even their mothers. Some men who hold positions of authority demand sex from desperate women looking for employment and this must come to an end,” he said.

READ: 10 things to know about Nomusa Dube-Ncube

Ramaphosa added perpetrators of GBV would get much harsher sentences than before.

“You can no longer remain silent against GBV. Silence is a dark corner in which women and children are abused, beaten, raped and killed. Silence is a dark cloud under which men allow their friends to ill-treat women in communities.

On this Women’s Day, I want to call every South African to play their part in the fight against GBV and speak out.”

Ramaphosa said doors were open for young women, even though there were several obstacles they first had to overcome.

In South Africa, like in many countries, women bear the brunt of poverty, especially black women. Three-quarters of women-headed households live in poverty. Slow economic growth and the impact of Covid-19 have been particularly hard on women and people living with disabilities. More women are more likely to be unemployed than men. On average, women still earn far less than men.

Ramaphosa said this was thrown in the spotlight with the victory of Banyana Banyana, who were paid far less than what Bafana Bafana would get if they won the cup.

“We need to address the challenges faced by South African women. We know there are limited opportunities, especially for young people. Young girls are being taken out of school to look for work to support their families or to take care of younger siblings. That should change, government is working to enable women to participate in the economy in a more meaningful way. We have decided that 40% of public procurement will be set aside for women-owned businesses.”

He said there was still a need to uplift women to the level where they are equal to men. Ramaphosa added because of the bravery shown by women who marched in 1956, today, our country had attained several rights and opportunities.

“Today, girls learn alongside boys and receive an equal education. Last year, more women passed their matric and got more distinctions than their male counterparts. There are currently more women students enrolled at our institutions of higher learning than males. It shows a great deal of progress. Close to half of our members in parliament are now women. More and more judges and magistrates are women. We are about to have a woman Deputy Chief Justice for the first time in the history of our country. She stands as a role model for all the women and lawyers and has demonstrated it is possible for anyone to reach that level.”

He also congratulated the province’s incoming first woman premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube.

Dube-Ncube said she was excited that the president chose to celebrate a Women’s Day event in Richmond.

“Women should be at the forefront in building our community. Our province was badly affected by Covid 19 followed by the July unrests last year, which affected mostly women of this province. However, we will not to be lamenting, but give solutions. Government should give 50% of public procurement to women,” she challenged.

READ: Nkoana-Mashabane | A call for gender equality, safety and freedom

Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said government was proud of women who refused to be silenced.

We remain confident that the collective resilience of women will be critical in rebuilding South Africa. Through resilience, we should not only conquer Covid-19 but also conquer GBV and femicide.


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