Author : CSVR
Title : Time for a strong woman’s movement to counter shifting political landscape
March 9, 2018
Time for a strong woman’s movement to counter shifting political landscape
Women who gathered on International Women’s Day to review “The Shifting Political Landscape” and its implications for women’s rights activism urged for an explicitly woman’s movement to push for greater access for all women to exercise their constitutional rights.
The meeting was hosted by the Centre for the study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR), together with the Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), Sonke Gender Justice, CIVICUS and the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to end Violence Against Women (TLAC).
Seminar chair Mabatho Ramagoshi noted that only one member of the ANC’s top six in the NEC was a woman despite the party’s 50/50 gender policy. The conversations showed the dire need for young women to organise themselves.
Addressing the challenges and opportunities facing women activism, HURISA Board Member Professor Zonke Majodina outlined some atrocities that women still encounter across the globe with little being done to address them. These included female genital mutilation and virginity testing. Challenges included gender stereotypes, inheritance laws and gender based violence.
Professor Majodina noted that domestic violence and gender-based violence stem from relations of power and that the exploitation of women rests on the systems of Patriarchy.
“Now, more than ever, South Africa needs to hear voices of women,” said Prof Majodina
Former ANC MP Dr Makhosi Khosa looked at the issue of “Women leadership, Voice and Political Participation in SA”, giving a personal account of her participation in politics and her removal from parliament.
She recounted how she was summoned to Luthuli house for speaking out against former President Jacob Zuma even though there were many other male colleagues who shared the same sentiments who were not sanctioned with backlash from members - particularly women.
Dr Khosa said was time for women to “reclaim their space” in the political arena and not be told by men otherwise. She called for a new model of politics with a feminist voice.
“We need to stand collectively and in solidarity to speak and act against injustices. Otherwise our silence also serves as condoning the injustice or crime that has been done and is an injustice in itself,” said Dr Khosa. “Therefore, I believe there should be women’s ministry and there also needs to be a women’s movement.”
Ambassador Mavivi Manzini, speaking on the Shifting Ground for women activists, said: “In my view there is no capacity in our women’s ministry.”
This was critical in view of the role women have played in the history of the ruling party and in the country: “There was no miracle in placing clauses in the constitution that advocate for women”, that was the hard work of women activist leaders.
Dieketseng Mohlakoana-Motopi of the Commission for Gender Equality noted that women living in rural areas were sidelined and not included in the society being built.
“Our objective is to give these women the opportunity to voice their experiences and how they can be assisted. We need to include them in finding solutions that will work for them,” she said.
Speaking on the framing of the political landscape in South Africa, CSVR Gender Researcher Thenjiwe Mswane first applauded the many women in urban and rural areas doing the work of activists at the ground level.
But she questioned how current political leaders were acting in the interest of women’s rights noting - among others - the treatment of the Marikana widows, current rates of gender based violence and the objectification of woman.
“We need a women’s movement that does not seek to erase but acknowledge our many diversities and priorities as women. One that seeks to bring us together based on shared values and principals.” says CSVR Gender Specialist Nonhlanhla Moyo
Avril Mafemba of the Foundation of Human Rights addressed a topic on migrant woman and youth in SA noting that these remain marginalised in the country.
“We are not a homogenous group,” she added, giving a personal account of her challenges as a young foreign national woman.
Sonke Gender Justice’s Mpiwa Mangwiro said womanhood was embedded in a constant fight for existence.
“There is so much work that still needs to be done. We are nowhere near gender equality but what is important is that we never give up,” said Mangwiro.
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