The City of Johannesburg needs a mayor who will not pay lip service when it comes to women empowerment, but provide a clear roadmap for ensuring that more women get opportunities in the City of Johannesburg, writes Loyiso Masuku.
In the month that we commemorate the march by the fearless women of 1956 to the Union Buildings, in protest of the dreaded pass laws, it is disheartening that 63 years on, the women of South Africa's largest city and the capital of the Gauteng Province have little cause to celebrate.
Under the reactionary and anti-poor mayor Herman Mashaba, the women of Johannesburg, especially urban poor women, find themselves at the margins of society.
To achieve a progressive and inclusive City of Johannesburg one must appreciate the economic and social struggles faced by the women of Johannesburg and South Africa at large, and the desperate material conditions in which they live under.
A deliberate and decisive plan to better the lives of women of Johannesburg, who continue to endure the most when it comes to unemployment, lack of opportunity, and exposure to crime and violence, must be put in place. This should include finding ways to have more women into the formal economy at a time when joblessness has reached an all-time high.
We must put in place programmes that address the social-ills faced by a 12-year-old girl who has recently entered womanhood, who is being raised by an unemployed mother – the same woman who must provide for three of her other siblings and make sure they go to bed with food in their stomachs. This is the same mother who is also faced with attending to all the changes that her daughter will now be faced with; emotionally, and otherwise. Such imperative programmes include the distribution of sanitary products to young girls in various schools in the City of Johannesburg; this is also in attempt to decrease absenteeism in schools.
With a leader of Mashaba's calibre at the helm, who has a limited understanding of the importance of such interventions, and reduces them to "getting kids to focus on sex," the city faces a deep crisis.
We need to be proactive in our intervention to provide conducive channels that encourage the development of young girls and women in our beloved city.
What the City of Johannesburg needs is an activist local government that will desist from excluding the urban poor out of already existing initiatives with demonstrable track records of success.
The cancellation of the Jozi@Work programme by the current administration has left over 8 000 people unemployed – with the closing down of 12 local bakeries dealing a huge blow to women entrepreneurs.
Today, many of these women sit at home, with no hope of a possible income for themselves and their children.
Under the ANC-led City of Johannesburg, specific attention was given to ensuring more women access and benefit from the job seekers database – especially indigent women with low levels of education.
With Cabinet having approved the Gender-Responsive Planning, Budgeting, Monitoring, Evaluation and Auditing Framework, all government plans and budget – including at provincial government level, will now have to include gender-specific delivery targets.
The ANC is leading by example in the fight for gender equality, and this can be seen in various positions of leadership. It is noteworthy that 47% of the governing party's members of Parliament are women, with a 50/50 gender parity in President Cyril Ramaphosa's Cabinet.
On a provincial government level, the ANC's highest decision-making body resolved that all provinces with a male premier should see to it that at least 60% of the Cabinet consists of women, this is in addition to the speaker of the legislature being a woman. This is exactly the progress the bold women marched to see when they took to the streets in 1956.
Sadly, this progress cannot be seen in the City of Johannesburg. Only seven out of 33 members of Mayor Mashaba's senior managers are women. This is in a South Africa, which sees its population consisting of more than 50% women.
Herman Mashaba and his coterie of male managers in the City of Johannesburg are aloof to women's struggles. As a collective, they are ignorant to the principles of affirmative action and redress.
Despite the gains made by the ANC government over the past 25 years, women remain the victims of abuse and violence. Furthermore, women are still second-class citizens in the economy.
It is under the ANC-led government that progressive policies to redress the bitter legacy of racism and inequality have been implemented.
Women in the City of Johannesburg demand equal access to opportunities and demand that their material condition be improved using progressive policies of the ANC government in accessing that same opportunities.
On August 22, 2019, the ANC in the City of Johannesburg will table a motion of no confidence against a mayor who has not only displayed utter disregard for the needs of women in the city – but who has woefully mismanaged its finances.
The financial situation of the City remains precarious, with millions of unspent grants. This includes funding and conditional transfers for housing and other projects. This is reflective of a municipality that is failing to spend on social upliftment programmes. Women who suffer the most because it is they who are in the greatest need of housing, shelter, safe and reliable transportation, and basic services.
The City of Johannesburg needs a mayor who will not pay lip service when it comes to women empowerment, but provide a clear roadmap for ensuring that more women get opportunities in the City of Johannesburg.
A city as complex as Johannesburg requires the kind of leader who will clearly and decisively show that social spending by all municipal entities prioritises women and children, one who reassures the women of the city that their unique needs are being addressed.
Women of Johannesburg cannot be passive bystanders in their own destiny.
We are born of Winnie Mandela, Florence Mophosho, Francis Baard, Charlotte Maxeke, Rahima Moosa, Ruth First, Lilian Ngoyi, Dora Tamana, Adelaide Tambo, Albertina Sisulu, Bertha Gxowa. Their spirit rests in us forever. We carry the spirits of the generation of 1956 and it is for this reason that we look forward to our date with the mayor on August 22, 2019.
- Loyiso Masuku is the deputy Secretary of the ANC in Johannesburg and a PR Councillor of the ANC Caucus in the City of Johannesburg.
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