In his poem, “The Paradox” Michael Drayton writes of “Drowning in a sea of fire”. This implicitly pain-filled contradiction marks the lives of South African Women today.
We celebrate a brave, united and proud heritage and remember the dignified resistance of South African women who marched to the Union Buildings to protest against extension of the “dompas” to women under the Urban Areas Act.
Paradoxically we live in the best and worst of times. All South African women can vote and women’s rights are protected by the Bill of Rights and the Preamble to our Constitution. However SA has the highest rape statistics in the world, increasing infant and maternal mortality rates, our literacy and numeracy is rated a global failure and research by the Public Protector shows that the worst paid, poorest, most exploited group in SA is rural black women.
While power and legislation has changed practice and gender abuse has increased. Rural black women continue to suffer not only the triple disadvantage of race, gender and class but a fourth disadvantage of deepening poverty, violence and unemployment.
If you are a female reader please be very careful today. Our public holidays are days of suffering. Women bear the brunt of statistics that report increased rape, domestic violence and road accidents on holidays – including National Women’s Day!
On this great day celebrate women’s unique nation-building power with us. Also take time to think about whether historical political affiliation should be substituted for a vote in favour of equal opportunities for all South African women.
Chairperson of DA Women’s Network
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