Gallant Women of our Country
Ladies and Gentlemen
Comrades and Compatriots,
We have reached the end of the 2010 Women’s Month. But, we would like our country and people to know that this is not and cannot be the end of the women’s struggle.
As we said at the last National General Council of the ANC Women’s League, in Esselen Park, Ekurhuleni, in 2007, the strategic task of women remains to ensure:
“The emancipation of women, attainment of gender equality and the objective of mobilizing women behind the vision of the African National Congress, of creating a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.”
It breaks our hearts to note that even as we marked Women’s Month, horrendous deeds continued unabated against women and children.
We have not fully recovered from the shocking cold-blooded murder of a defenceless 85 year-old woman in the Eastern Cape last Saturday, during Women’s Month.
Mme Masilenge Bambusiba was hacked to death, in Sibubudu village, together with four grandchildren aged 17, 10, 9 and 5, worst of all, at home, where they were supposedly save.
Also, during August month, in Tzaneen, in this very province, a mother of three children was grievously assaulted with a spade by her husband and admitted in hospital in a critical condition, leaving her children home alone, stranded and traumatized.
We live in a patriarchal society that makes it acceptable for women to be harassed. In this scheme of things, it is poor women who suffer the most.
Clearly, the National Conference on Values for a Just and Caring Society, to be held in Gauteng, is very timely. It must remind us of the pressing need to recommit to the democratic values enshrined in our Constitution.
Sheer disregard for human life brings into question the nation’s commitment to the fundamental right to life. This must be condemned with all the contempt it deserves.
It is shocking to see women colluding and cheering in the face of total anarchy, watching other women struggling to give birth, all by themselves, with no mercy or help.
Where is the sisterhood that united respectable women of the 1950s? What would Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophy Williams and Rahima Moosa say were they to see the indignity and inhumanity with which women are treated, even by other women and fellow sisters, in our hospitals, in our schools, and in our trains? How do we erase from our minds the memory of two naked women stripped of their dignity in a train?
Being in Limpopo, the birthplace of Charlotte Maxeke, reminds me that she was a nurse, a caring one for that matter, with a gentle and passionate love for children.
We call upon all women, from all walks of life, to volunteer to bring justice and respect for human rights to our country. Together we should defend the future of our children.
We call upon all women of our country earnestly to emulate the selfless Charlotte Maxeke who gave away everything in the service of humankind, so that we can all be free.
While we acknowledge all rights enshrined in our democratic Constitution, including the right to strike, we remain steadfast in our commitment to the principle that every right goes with a corresponding responsibility.
Accordingly, when we talk of the right to strike so must we protect every child’s right to education. When we talk of a total shutdown, so must we remember our people’s right to life.
We must think particularly of the African people, our people, who do not afford private hospitals; whose only recourse is the public hospital. We took this country from the rogue minority regime precisely because of the moral supremacy that we commanded both as a people and a liberation movement.
This closing ceremony gives us a chance to thank warmly all the women and men of this country, from all walks of life, who have used Women’s Month activities and the 54th Anniversary of Women’s Day to take the women’s struggle for equal opportunities and progress to new heights.
Throughout the August month, we raised sharply the reality of “triple oppression” which plunged women into lives of misery for many centuries. For indeed, so long as patriarchal and cultural domination prevail, so shall women remain in chains.
We used Women’s Month once more to place critical issues underlying the misery of women high on the transformation agenda. We noted as an achievement the declaration, by the African Union, of the Decade of African Women. We celebrated the leading role of women in development. Our state declared, as a victory to women, the graves of Charlotte Maxeke, Lilian Ngoyi and Helen Joseph, as national heritage sites.
We used the time to educate especially our young women and students about the history of the women’s struggle in South Africa and about the significance of the 1956 Women’s March.
We saluted pioneers and heroines of the struggle, including: Madi Hall-Xuma, Frances Baard, Dorothy Nyembe, Adelaide Tambo, Albertina Sisulu, Winnie Mandela and many others.
But Comrades, the struggle continues over and above the month of August! As Comrade OR Tambo said in 1981:
“For the revolutionary movement, anniversaries cannot only celebrate the past. We must recall and acclaim our history, but more importantly, we must use the past to arm ourselves for the future: to learn lessons and to strengthen our resolve and commitment.”
Like women of the 1950s, we have to work together as a collective “for the fulfilment of the objectives elaborated in the Freedom Charter” (Tambo, 1981). It is this that informs our call for the strengthening of the national gender machinery.
Finally, on behalf of the ANC Women’s League, I would like to thank all women and men of this country who have made the 2010 Women’s Month campaign a resounding success.