August has been dedicated to raising awareness of violence against women and children and highlighting ways in which women can help move South Africa forward.
Socio-economic circumstances contribute to violence against women and children, the Director-General of the Department of Women, Jenny Schreiner, believes.
She said that social distress is fuelled by high levels of inequality and unemployment, as well as the recession and resulting lack of job security. “We put our families under enormous stress. When you are under stress, it comes out somewhere. It is inexcusable, however, that it comes out in the form of violence.”
She added that South Africa has a social security policy that enables social distress to be moderated through the issuing of social grants.
According to Schreiner, a combination of triggers compound social stress. One of these is patriarchy, which is a system of society in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. Patriarchy contributes to the level of violence against women and children.
Change starts at home
Schreiner said that her department helps mitigate this violence through advocacy programmes, including the National Dialogues initiative, which raises awareness about violence against women and children.
Schreiner said what the country is faced with is a gender issue and not a women’s issue.
“We need men to be role models and boy children to know that there are other solutions besides violence against women. To change things, South Africa needs to start in the home.”
She said the culture of family members keeping quiet when someone is abused needs to stop. Faith-based organisations and religious leaders must play a part in moral regeneration.
“Violence of any description is morally wrong. Our Constitution says we have a right to be safe.”
Women unite to move South Africa forward
This year’s Women’s Month theme is Women unite to move South Africa forward, which speaks to the core of women emancipation.
Schreiner said it is critical for women to organise themselves properly to ensure that they receive what is due to them as stated in the Constitution.
She said women of today have the ability to move the country forward, just like the more than 20 000 women of 1956 did, when they marched to the Union Buildings in protest against the extension of pass laws to women.
The march against the pass laws was organised by the Federation of South African Women which famously challenged the idea that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.
The main 2017 National Women’s Day celebration on 8 August was held in Galeshewe in the Northern Cape, with an official address by President Jacob Zuma.
According to Statistics South Africa, in 2011 the Northern Cape had a population of 1 145 86,1, of which 50.69 per cent were female and 49.31 per cent were men.
The Provincial Growth and Development Strategy further indicates that the Northern Cape faces chronic underdevelopment with its social, economic and cultural manifestations through poverty, unemployment and rural-urban income inequality, which still continue.