It’s time for communities to hold honest conversations about the role of women in society, as National Dialogues take place in Women’s Month.
With Women’s Month underway, a series of National Dialogues is taking place across the Northern Cape to raise awareness of, and find ways to tackle, the scourge of gender-based violence.
Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women, Susan Shabangu, said her department will be working with men and women to bring an end to the violence women suffer.
Speaking at the launch of the 2017 Women’s Month programme in Pretoria recently, the Minister said it is time communities had honest conversations about the roles that women play in society.
“The dialogues are also going to scrutinise the effects of how families reserve the biggest piece of meat for men. Our churches are led by men, the majority of schoolbooks are written by men, and the media is dominated by men. These realities contribute to how men are positioned as more important than women in society.”
We need women to take the lead
In Limpopo, MEC for Coopertive Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, Makoma Makhurupetje, shared the same message as she launched the province’s month-long Women’s Month activities. Speaking at the Leboeng Sports Ground, the MEC reminded the audience that today’s freedom is the result of brave men and women who chose to stand up against tyranny.
While National Women’s Month is a time of reflection and tribute to the women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956, and to the many women-led campaigns of the past, it is also a time to assess the present and plan for the future.
Not standing up for the rights of women today is a betrayal of the legacies of women like Dora Tamana, Albertina Sisulu, Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Charlotte Maxeke. “All these women refused to accept the false assertions that their place was merely limited to the kitchen,” MEC Makhurupetje said.
There are women who the country should look to for inspiration, she added. These role models are making waves everywhere in society. But the country needs more women in leadership roles, especially in the corporate world and technical professions.
“Corporate South Africa is one sector that is still male-dominated and must be changed sooner rather than later. My department is already taking a lead in this regard – as we have taken a deliberate decision to appoint 30 per cent women and 20 per cent youth contractors to deliver on our housing mandate.”
The theme for this year’s Women’s Month is “The Year of OR Tambo: Women united in moving South Africa forward”.
The department’s dialogue roadshow taps into this idea, championed by OR Tambo. Speaking at the Women’s Conference in Luanda in 1981, he reminded his audience: “The mobilisation of women is the task, not only of women alone, or of men alone, but of all of us, men and women alike, comrades in struggle.”
The Minister believes that open dialogues are the way to change society’s perceptions of the role of women. She challenged faith-based organisations, traditional leaders, community leaders, women’s organisations, and even stokvels to stand up and let their voices be heard.
It is only when communities stand togethr that real change takes place she said. “We believe that forging partnerships with communities, business, faith-based organisations and traditional leadership will give women a first-hand opportunity to directly influence government programmes and ensure the mainstreaming of gender issues through the national dialogues programme.”
The department is taking the lead to create opportunities for women to join the economy as equals. “Women are key beneficiaries in the development of skills. The department is also hard at work developing sanitary dignity, gender-responsive budgeting and women financial inclusion frameworks to further the women socio-economic agenda in the country.”