Women’s Month: fight for equality and empowerment

Since the march in 1956, South Africa has come a long way: South Africa has the most women in government and female politicians in the world.

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Photo: https://www.officeholidays.com/holidays/south-africa/national-womens-day

August commemorates Women’s Month. The rich history behind this celebration is fascinating. About 20 000 women marched to the Union buildings on 9 August 1956 to petition against the pass law.
This month has been more about empowering women and fighting for equality. Though many have maintained that equality is impossible, as women are not as strong as men and cannot do certain jobs. Yet women have proven time and time again that no matter what is thrown at them, they stand up and do a better job.
Empowering women is to educate young girls, teach them the correct morals and teach them their worth. In today’s society of social media, it is cooler to be stupid than smart. Women have fought against this for years.
In the early 1950’s and 1960’s a woman had to ask permission to open a bank account and to have a job and then she was only allowed to do admin work as women were seen as being worth much less. Many women fought against this. In the 1960’s everything started to change when women started to fight for equality in America through the feminist movement. They fought for the right to abortion, education and equality and there was no doubt that they were committed to their cause. In 1963 the equal pay act was passed and in 1970 the equal rights act.
In South Africa these rights only came post-1994, but still today women struggle with domestic abuse and are being told they are worth less than men. This year’s Women’s Month theme is: “Growing South Africa Together for Women’s Emancipation.” Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, Minister in the Presidency for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, said the following at the 65th anniversary of the 1954 Women’s Charter commemoration: “The theme is a call to South Africa to reflect on the country’s success in achieving gender equality and mainstreaming the gender agenda across all sectors, from arts, sport, politics, economy, health, land ownership, entrepreneurship and gender dynamics. The theme also calls on South Africans to break gender stereotypes and remove barriers that seek to serve misogynistic interests.”
Since the march in 1956, South Africa has come a long way: South Africa has the most women in government and female politicians in the world. Caster Semenya, 800m Olympic champion, recently lost legal battles over gender equality. The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federation) won the case and it was said that she should take medication to improve her body’s oestrogen levels. This is a step back in the fight for equality in sports, but a lesson for women not to stand back and let an opinion define who you are.
Another recent fight for equality was equal pay on the sports field. The South African ladies’ football team is a good example of this, but in America the women’s team had to fight for equal pay. Avid sports watchers would say that they made something out of nothing because the game is not at the level of that of the men’s game. The American ladies’ team won their fight. The most common argument behind this is that the game is not as fast or as popular as that of the men’s game. Should this then be seen as a valid argument?
Although the fight for equality and empowering women has been going on for generations, it still seems and comes across that daughters are brought up to believe that only a man can take care of them, they are only good enough to bear children and cook (shorten her chain: a famous South African joke). This is the stigma young girls and ladies are being brought up with every day, instead of teaching a daughter how to change the car’s oil or tyre and telling them that they can achieve anything they want.
When the topic of domestic violence is introduced, society prefers to be too sensitive regarding this subject because these things “do not happen” and “what did she do?” These questions and statements are at the forefront of how society perceives domestic violence. It leads to the issue being swept under the rug. Women are scared of their abusers and in most cases, do not have the means to leave and also have nowhere to go. This aggravates the situation. In most cases, the abuse gets worse and the woman has no voice, whether the abuse is physical or mental because the woman can heal from both but will she ever have the courage to walk away?
Domestic violence does go both ways. If a woman beats a man and he reports the matter to the police, he gets ridiculed. This is where women who have been fighting for equality for years, are also hypocrites.
Equality according to the Cambridge Dictionary: the right of different groups of people to have a similar social position and receive the same treatment. Empowerment according to the Oxford Dictionary: the act of giving somebody more control over their own life or the situation they are in.
Looking at these definitions one can form many arguments and these arguments can have great outcomes. These arguments can also form many enemies. One of the difficulties in these arguments is culture. This can be changed through, as previously mentioned, education.
Education is equal according to many, but the fact remains that, should an educated woman walk into a male dominated world, it is known that she must work ten times harder to prove herself. Why is this? The answer comes back to culture.
Culture plays a big role in one’s upbringing. Even though everyone is South African, everyone was brought up and is being brought up differently. One thing everyone has in common is school. Educators should teach children, male and female, that no matter the gender, you can do what you believe you can do and that there are no restrictions or limitation because you are male or female.
In order to achieve equality, one must educate and empower the youth of today, regardless of their gender. Women must and young ladies must be educated that standing together will get you further than laughing at each other. Turn them into queens who would rather fix each other’s crowns than break the other down. “Strong women don’t use their strength to knock others down, but to help others carry their burdens.” – Anonymous
South Africa has come far in the fight for equality and women’s rights, but there is still a lot to improve on to break through the glass ceiling. – Ané Prinsloo

Photo: South African History Online
Photo: South African History Online

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