Messages of encouragement and support have flooded in as South Africans celebrate Women’s Day with acknowledgements of gender struggle featuring strongly on Friday.
Citizens observed the day across the nation remembering 20,000 women who marched on the Union Buildings in defiance of the apartheid pass laws in 1956.
Speaking on behalf of the Royal House of Mandela, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, the grandson of former president Nelson Mandela, said that despite SA’s progressive laws society was still dysfunctional with high levels of femicide, rape and abuse.
“We must take responsibility individually and collectively and we must work to strengthen those institutions tasked with protecting the rights of women, human rights, equality and other such progressive institutions of our democracy.”
He said gang violence currently gripping the Cape Flats has cost the lives of mainly young men.
“In its wake it leaves mothers, sisters and grandmothers in tears and having to fend for children and families that have lost a breadwinner.”
Zwelivelile said that within the Mandela family, Madiba always credited others for their contribution to the struggle.
“We need to tell their stories more. It was this quality of taking no personal credit and seeking no personal accolades that endeared him to millions around the globe.”
ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said all women should be recognised for their contributions to SA.
“No contribution however big or small must ever be diminished. Our boldness is needed to battle against patriarchy and the systematic silencing of our voices.”
Duarte said women should demand an end to unfair labour practices, joblessness and customs that are discriminatory.
“We must demand respect for women by the media and fight against the objectification and abuse of women and girls. Our rightful place is direct involvement in the growth of our economy.”
DA leader Mmusi Maimane said the DA recognised that 25 years into democracy, women remain worst affected by poverty, violence and abuse.
“Let us build economic models that ensure that more women are able to participate in the work space. There must be an equal payment for the work that women do as per their male counterparts.”
He said developments in the form of technology, climate change and healthcare management had to include women.
“It’s critical that we make these transitions into the future so that our country becomes more inclusive with our young girls able to code, participate in the green economy and ultimately be benefactors of quality healthcare.”
In a statement released by parliamentary spokesperson Moloto Mothapo, he said SA could never be free while children and women continue to die at the hands of men and boys, most of whom share close relationships with them.
Mothapo said there was a continuing increase in women’s representation in parliament.
“From 124 women members of parliament in the first democratic Parliament of 1994 to 1999, the number of women MPs now significantly increased to 201 women in the current parliamentary term.”
He said that out of the 54 countries in Africa, SA’s parliament is ranked third in women’s representation after Rwanda and Namibia, while globally the Inter-Parliamentary Union places South Africa in 10th place out of 193 countries.
While there was still much to be achieved, parliament took women’s issues seriously, as evidenced by the gains in representation, he said.