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Celebrating SA’s women

Written by Sphelele Ngubane

This Women’s Month,  which is commemorated annually in August, women from all walks of life celebrate the freedoms they did not have pre-1994.

Women’s Month pays tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956, in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.

These brave women fought for their rights and freedom and are celebrated on 9 August, which was declared Women's Day.

Post-1994, the South Afri- can government prioritised the release of women from many limitations making it possible for them to reach their full potential.

Government ensured that women in the democratic South Africa enjoy the same freedoms and rights as men, by developing policies prioritising women in employment and business opportunities.

This has seen many women in the country, in both the public and private sectors, rise to high levels of management and leadership and occupy positions they were previously not allowed to.

This year has been named the year of liberation struggle heroine and human rights campaigner Charlotte
Maxeke. She is the second woman to be memorialised and honoured in this way. In 2018, struggle icon Albertina Sisulu was honoured in a similar manner.  Maxeke had an impact in many areas, including education, faith and politics.

Vuk’uzenzele spoke to four women of different ages and interests, to find out what being a woman in South Africa means to them. These women have had their lives changed, thanks to government programmes and opportunities.

An entrepreneur with two businesses

Portia Malinga (36), a professional chef and an entrepreneur, from Winterveldt in Pretoria, runs two successful businesses.

She owns Dijo Tse Porche (Pty) Ltd, a cooking business, and LA Arrow Technologies (Pty) Ltd, an information technology (IT) business.

LA Arrow Technologies supplies hardware, software, consumables and on-site IT services.  Malinga provides services to government departments, state-owned companies
and the private sector.

“La Arrow Technologies gets 90% of its business from government. This has been made possible through broad-based black economic empowerment and the exempted micro-enterprise, which give empowerment and preferential points for businesses owned by black South African women,” explains Malinga.

She is thankful for the efforts made by the government to ensure women-owned business thrive.

Malinga encourages other women to make the most of the opportunities provided by government.

Inspired to grow

Evelyn Mashinini (57) is the Chairperson of Hold Hands Together Cooperative in Tembisa. 

She started the cooperative in 2012, when she gathered unemployed women and youth and started teaching them how to sew, crochet, bead and knit.

“Working together has helped us access business opportunities in government. Between 2015 and 2017, I was contracted by the Department of Social Development to make school uniforms for the children they provide for. I got the contract again this year,” she says.

The department also helped the cooperative to make reusable face masks.

Apart from these projects, Mashinini says she has received equipment, including sewing machines and overlockers, from the Gauteng Enterprise Propeller, Department of Trade and Industry and Ekurhuleni Municipality.

“We are given opportunities as women to start our small businesses. We now want to move forward by having cooperative
access the bigger markets,” she says.

Disability not a limit

Nqobile Khuzwayo (25) from Newlands West in KwaZulu-Natal is a business information management student and a disability grant recipient.

She commends government for widening access to higher education for people living with disabilities.

“I was declared brain dead, but today I am at university passing my modules with distinctions.

“Back in the day, people with disabilities were not given opportunities to study, but now more opportunities are open for people living with disabilities,” she says.

Khuzwayo now empowers other women with disabilities. She encourages women not to limit themselves because of their conditions.

Free access to higher education

Nande Faku (22) from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape graduated with a national diploma in journalism this year.

During her studies, she was a beneficiary of the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. The funding paid for her tuition, private accommodation of R3 400 a month and a meal allowance of R1 500 per month.

“Being a woman in South Africa today is so much better compared to what the generations before us had to go through.

“I mostly appreciate that I am able to choose any career I want, without being excluded, as we are told it happened to many women before 1994,” she says. 

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