Women’s Month

Women`s Charter
17 April 1954 Johannesburg,

Preamble: We, the women of South Africa, wives and mothers, working women and housewives, African, Indians, European and Coloured, hereby declare our aim of striving for the removal of all laws, regulations, conventions and customs that discriminate against us as women, and that deprive us in any way of our inherent right to the advantages, responsibilities and opportunities that society offers to any one section of the population.
A Single Society: We women do not form a society separate from the men. There is only one society, and it is made up of both women and men. As women we share the problems and anxieties of our men, and join hands with them to remove social evils and obstacles to progress.
Test of Civilisation: The level of civilisation which any society has reached can be measured by the degree of freedom that its members enjoy. The status of women is a test of civilisation. Measured by that standard, South Africa must be considered low in the scale of civilised nations.
Women`s Lot: We women share with our menfolk the cares and anxieties imposed by poverty and its evils. As wives and mothers, it falls upon us to make small wages stretch a long way. It is we who feel the cries of our children when they are hungry and sick. It is our lot to keep and care for the homes that are too small, broken and dirty to be kept clean. We know the burden of looking after children and land when our husbands are away in the mines, on the farms, and in the towns earning our daily bread.
We know what it is to keep family life going in pondokkies and shanties, or in overcrowded one-room apartments. We know the bitterness of children taken to lawless ways, of daughters becoming unmarried mothers whilst still at school, of boys and girls growing up without education, training or jobs at a living wage.
Poor and Rich: These are evils that need not exist. They exist because the society in which we live is divided into poor and rich, into non-European and European. They exist because there are privileges for the few, discrimination and harsh treatment for the many. We women have stood and will stand shoulder to shoulder with our menfolk in a common struggle against poverty, race and class discrimination, and the evils of the colourbar.
National Liberation: As members of the National Liberatory movements and Trade Unions, in and through our various organisations, we march forward with our men in the struggle for liberation and the defence of the working people. We pledge ourselves to keep high the banner of equality, fraternity and liberty. As women there rests upon us also the burden of removing from our society all the social differences developed in past times between men and women, which have the effect of keeping our sex in a position of inferiority and subordination.
Equality for Women: We resolve to struggle for the removal of laws and customs that deny African women the right to own, inherit or alienate property. We resolve to work for a change in the laws of marriage such as are found amongst our African, Malay and Indian people, which have the effect of placing wives in the position of legal subjection to husbands, and giving husbands the power to dispose of wives` property and earnings, and dictate to them in all matters affecting them and their children.
We recognise that the women are treated as minors by these marriage and property laws because of ancient and revered traditions and customs which had their origin in the antiquity of the people and no doubt served purposes of great value in bygone times.
There was a time in the African society when every woman reaching marriageable stage was assured of a husband, home, land and security.
Then husbands and wives with their children belonged to families and clans that supplied most of their own material needs and were largely self-sufficient. Men and women were partners in a compact and closely integrated family unit.
Women who Labour: Those conditions have gone. The tribal and kinship society to which they belonged has been destroyed as a result of the loss of tribal land, migration of men away from the tribal home, the growth of towns and industries, and the rise of a great body of wage-earners on the farms and in the urban areas, who depend wholly or mainly on wages for a livelihood.
Thousands of African women, like Indians, Coloured and European women, are employed today in factories, homes, offices, shops, on farms, in professions as nurses, teachers and the like. As unmarried women, widows or divorcees they have to fend for themselves, often without the assistance of a male relative. Many of them are responsible not only for their own livelihood but also that of their children.
Large numbers of women today are in fact the sole breadwinners and heads of their families.
Forever Minors: Nevertheless, the laws and practices derived from an earlier and different state of society are still applied to them. They are responsible for their own person and their children. Yet the law seeks to enforce upon them the status of a minor.
Not only are African, Coloured and Indian women denied political rights, but they are also in many parts of the Union denied the same status as men in such matters as the right to enter into contracts, to own and dispose of property, and to exercise guardianship over their children.
Obstacle to Progress: The law has lagged behind the development of society; it no longer corresponds to the actual social and economic position of women. The law has become an obstacle to progress of the women, and therefore a brake on the whole of society.
This intolerable condition would not be allowed to continue were it not for the refusal of a large section of our menfolk to concede to us women the rights and privileges which they demand for themselves.
We shall teach the men that they cannot hope to liberate themselves from the evils of discrimination and prejudice as long as they fail to extend to women complete and unqualified equality in law and in practice.
Need for Education: We also recognise that large numbers of our womenfolk continue to be bound by traditional practices and conventions, and fail to realise that these have become obsolete and a brake on progress. It is our duty and privilege to enlist all women in our struggle for emancipation and to bring to them all realisation of the intimate relationship that exists between their status of inferiority as women and the inferior status to which their people are subjected by discriminatory laws and colour prejudices.
It is our intention to carry out a nation-wide programme of educa- tion that will bring home to the men and women of all national groups the realisation that freedom cannot be won for any one section or for the people as a whole as long as we women are kept in bondage.
An Appeal: We women appeal to all progressive organisations, to members of the great National Liberatory movements, to the trade unions and working class organisations, to the churches, educational and welfare organisations, to all progressive men and women who have the interests of the people at heart, to join with us in this great and noble endeavour.
Our Aims
We declare the following aims:
This organisation is formed for the purpose of uniting women in common action for the removal of all political, legal, economic and social disabilities. We shall strive for women to obtain:
1. The right to vote and to be elected to all State bodies, without restriction or discrimination.
2. The right to full opportunities for employment with equal pay and possibilities of promotion in all spheres of work.
3. Equal rights with men in relation to property, marriage and children, and for the removal of all laws and customs that deny women such equal rights.
4. For the development of every child through free compulsory education for all; for the protection of mother and child through maternity homes, welfare clinics, creches and nursery schools, in countryside and towns; through proper homes for all, and through the provision of water, light, transport, sanitation, and other amenities of modern civilisation.
5. For the removal of all laws that restrict free movement, that prevent or hinder the right of free association and activity in democratic organisations, and the right to participate in the work of these organisations.
6. To build and strengthen women`s sections in the National Liberatory movements, the organisation of women in trade unions, and through the peoples` varied organisation.
7. To cooperate with all other organisations that have similar aims in South Africa as well as throughout the world.
8. To strive for permanent peace throughout the world.

 

CELEBRATING NATIONAL WOMEN’S MONTH
AUGUST 2014

CELEBRATING 60th ANNIVERSARY OF THE WOMEN’S CHARTER AND 20 YEARS OF FREEDOM: MOVING WOMEN’S AGENDA FORWARD!

 

WOMENS CHARTER of 1954
17 APRIL 1954 JOHANNESBURG,

Preamble: We, the women of South Africa, wives and mothers, working women and housewives, African, Indians, European and Coloured, hereby declare our aim of striving for the removal of all laws, regulations, conventions and customs that discriminate against us as women, and that deprive us in any way of our inherent right to the advantages, responsibilities and opportunities that society offers to any one section of the population.

A Single Society: We women do not form a society separate from the men. There is only one society, and it is made up of both women and men. As women we share the problems and anxieties of our men, and join hands with them to remove social evils and obstacles to progress.

Test of Civilisation: The level of civilisation which any society has reached can be measured by the degree of freedom that its members enjoy. The status of women is a test of civilisation. Measured by that standard, South Africa must be considered low in the scale of civilised nations.

Women`s Lot: We women share with our menfolk the cares and anxieties imposed by poverty and its evils. As wives and mothers, it falls upon us to make small wages stretch a long way. It is we who feel the cries of our children when they are hungry and sick. It is our lot to keep and care for the homes that are too small, broken and dirty to be kept clean. We know the burden of looking after children and land when our husbands are away in the mines, on the farms, and in the towns earning our daily bread.

We know what it is to keep family life going in pondokkies and shanties, or in overcrowded one-room apartments. We know the bitterness of children taken to lawless ways, of daughters becoming unmarried mothers whilst still at school, of boys and girls growing up without education, training or jobs at a living wage.

Poor and Rich: These are evils that need not exist. They exist because the society in which we live is divided into poor and rich, into non-European and European. They exist because there are privileges for the few, discrimination and harsh treatment for the many. We women have stood and will stand shoulder to shoulder with our menfolk in a common struggle against poverty, race and class discrimination, and the evils of the colourbar.

National Liberation: As members of the National Liberatory movements and Trade Unions, in and through our various organisations, we march forward with our men in the struggle for liberation and the defence of the working people. We pledge ourselves to keep high the banner of equality, fraternity and liberty. As women there rests upon us also the burden of removing from our society all the social differences developed in past times between men and women, which have the effect of keeping our sex in a position of inferiority and subordination.

Equality for Women: We resolve to struggle for the removal of laws and customs that deny African women the right to own, inherit or alienate property. We resolve to work for a change in the laws of marriage such as are found amongst our African, Malay and Indian people, which have the effect of placing wives in the position of legal subjection to husbands, and giving husbands the power to dispose of wives` property and earnings, and dictate to them in all matters affecting them and their children.

We recognise that the women are treated as minors by these marriage and property laws because of ancient and revered traditions and customs which had their origin in the antiquity of the people and no doubt served purposes of great value in bygone times.

There was a time in the African society when every woman reaching marriageable stage was assured of a husband, home, land and security.

Then husbands and wives with their children belonged to families and clans that supplied most of their own material needs and were largely self-sufficient. Men and women were partners in a compact and closely integrated family unit.

Women who Labour: Those conditions have gone. The tribal and kinship society to which they belonged has been destroyed as a result of the loss of tribal land, migration of men away from the tribal home, the growth of towns and industries, and the rise of a great body of wage-earners on the farms and in the urban areas, who depend wholly or mainly on wages for a livelihood.

Thousands of African women, like Indians, Coloured and European women, are employed today in factories, homes, offices, shops, on farms, in professions as nurses, teachers and the like. As unmarried women, widows or divorcees they have to fend for themselves, often without the assistance of a male relative. Many of them are responsible not only for their own livelihood but also that of their children.

Large numbers of women today are in fact the sole breadwinners and heads of their families.
Forever Minors: Nevertheless, the laws and practices derived from an earlier and different state of society are still applied to them. They are responsible for their own person and their children. Yet the law seeks to enforce upon them the status of a minor.

Not only are African, Coloured and Indian women denied political rights, but they are also in many parts of the Union denied the same status as men in such matters as the right to enter into contracts, to own and dispose of property, and to exercise guardianship over their children.

Obstacle to Progress: The law has lagged behind the development of society; it no longer corresponds to the actual social and economic position of women. The law has become an obstacle to progress of the women, and therefore a brake on the whole of society.

This intolerable condition would not be allowed to continue were it not for the refusal of a large section of our menfolk to concede to us women the rights and privileges which they demand for themselves.

We shall teach the men that they cannot hope to liberate themselves from the evils of discrimination and prejudice as long as they fail to extend to women complete and unqualified equality in law and in practice.

Need for Education: We also recognise that large numbers of our womenfolk continue to be bound by traditional practices and conventions, and fail to realise that these have become obsolete and a brake on progress. It is our duty and privilege to enlist all women in our struggle for emancipation and to bring to them all realisation of the intimate relationship that exists between their status of inferiority as women and the inferior status to which their people are subjected by discriminatory laws and colour prejudices.

It is our intention to carry out a nation-wide programme of education that will bring home to the men and women of all national groups the realisation that freedom cannot be won for any one section or for the people as a whole as long as we women are kept in bondage.

An Appeal: We women appeal to all progressive organisations, to members of the great National Liberatory movements, to the trade unions and working class organisations, to the churches, educational and welfare organisations, to all progressive men and women who have the interests of the people at heart, to join with us in this great and noble endeavour.
Our Aims
We declare the following aims:

This organisation is formed for the purpose of uniting women in common action for the removal of all political, legal, economic and social disabilities. We shall strive for women to obtain:

1. The right to vote and to be elected to all State bodies, without restriction or discrimination.

2. The right to full opportunities for employment with equal pay and possibilities of promotion in all spheres of work.

3. Equal rights with men in relation to property, marriage and children, and for the removal of all laws and customs that deny women such equal rights.

4. For the development of every child through free compulsory education for all; for the protection of mother and child through maternity homes, welfare clinics, creches and nursery schools, in countryside and towns; through proper homes for all, and through the provision of water, light, transport, sanitation, and other amenities of modern civilisation.

5. For the removal of all laws that restrict free movement, that prevent or hinder the right of free association and activity in democratic organisations, and the right to participate in the work of these organisations.

6. To build and strengthen women`s sections in the National Liberatory movements, the organisation of women in trade unions, and through the peoples` varied organisation.

7. To cooperate with all other organisations that have similar aims in South Africa as well as throughout the world.

8. To strive for permanent peace throughout the world.

The Charter was adopted at the Founding Conference of the Federation of South African Women. It expressed the philosophy and aims of the newly established Federation of South African Women (FSAW) and was included in the final report of the conference

 

1
INTRODUCTION

The empowerment of women in South Africa is about redressing the legacy of apartheid and about the transformation of society, particularly the transformation of power relations between women, men, institutions and laws. It is also about addressing gender oppression, patriarchy, sexism, racism, ageism, and structural oppression, and creating a conducive environment which enables women to take control of their lives.

Black women suffered triple oppression (race, gender, class / culture), especially those married under customary law, who were regarded as minors by the Black Administration Act 1927 and placed under the tutelage of their husbands. The aspirations of women for self-determination and equality were espoused in the Women’s Charter of 1954. It is now 60 years later, in 2014, and the Women’s Charter remains as valid in the call for women’s emancipation, development and empowerment as it was then.

Since the dawn of democracy and freedom in 1994, the Government of the Republic of South Africa has committed to a determined human rights framework. This is enshrined in the Constitution as the Bill of Rights. In that context, the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality, which was adopted in 1994 by the Women’s Coalition, and launched on National Women’s Day in August 1995, informed the basis for consideration in all political, legal and legislative strategies, as well as a source for the writing of the National Constitution.

Both the 1954 and 1994 Women’s Charters give expression to the common experiences, visions and aspirations of South African women, providing the platform for women to voice out their call for respect and recognition of their human dignity, rights and change in their status and material conditions. In line with this, South Africa participated in the United Nations 4th World Conference for Women in Beijing, China in September 1995, and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) without reservation in December of the same year.

South Africa has made significant legislative reforms and developed policies and programmes based on the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 and its Bill of Rights which seek to promote and protect women’s rights in the home, in the community and in the workplace. The promulgation of the Equality Act of 2000 sought to translate these imperatives relating to the empowerment of women in all decision making processes and development into practical measures.

2
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

 

Women of all races demonstrated against having to carry passes in three major campaigns, all of which are mentioned here. The first, in 1913, was in Bloemfontein and stands out not only because it was such an early outbreak of women’s resistance characterised by strength and militancy and was so costly to the personal lives of participants. It also set the tone for later anti-pass action by militant African women.

The protest against these permits, which required women to prove ‘formal’ employment each month, was preceded by women’s delegation sent to the governor-general. They presented him with a petition of over five thousand signatures, and staged demonstrations. As the segregationist Natives Land Act had also been introduced that year, tensions were high, and both the African Political Organisation (APO) and the newly formed African National Congress encouraged the efforts of the Waaihoek women. They equally were against this draconian law that got Sol Plaatje lamenting in 1916, in thus: “Awakening on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth”.

The second episode was in 1930 in Potchefstroom, a small white-dominated town where officials tried to bully the women to comply with the particular labour needs of the town. In this case the grievance of the women was against lodgers’ permits.

In February 1954, a crowd of 700 women gathered outside the administration building in the New Brighton township of Port Elizabeth, demanding that the manager of Native Affairs take back all the residence permits he had issued. When he refused, l00 women burned their permits, declaring that New Brighton women were no longer willing to carry them.

On 17 April 1954 the Founding Conference of the Federation of South African Women adopted the Women’s Charter which outlined the aspirations of women for national liberation, emancipation – including political participation of and equality for women.

In October 1955, while 2,000 women were marching on Pretoria, 1,000 were protesting in front of the Native administration building in Durban. In Cape Town, hundreds of women marched through the streets in protest of the permit regulations. The Minister of Native Affairs, Dr Verwoerd, chose this moment to announce that reference books would be issued to African women beginning in January 1956. The third campaign was masterminded in Johannesburg from 1954 to 1956, culminating in the march in 1956 of nearly 20 000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, a symbol as the bastion of Apartheid.

The Women’s Charter was adopted a year before the historic Freedom Charter of 1955. It called for the enfranchisement of men and women of all races; equality of opportunity in employment; equal pay for equal work; equal rights in relation to property, marriage and children; and the removal of all laws and customs that denied women such equality. The Charter further demanded paid maternity leave, childcare for working mothers, and free and compulsory education for all South African children. Although the Federation acknowledged that the primary task at hand was the struggle for national liberation, it warned that the struggle would not be won without the full participation of women.

Applying a distorted version of “tribal” law, which had governed pre-industrial African society, South African courts continued to regard African women as perpetual minors under the permanent tutelage of their male guardians. Women`s property rights were severely limited and control over their own earnings minimal. The authors of the “Women`s Charter” did not hesitate to deal with these issues. According to the Charter, laws governing African marriage and property relations which had “lagged behind the development of society no longer correspond to the actual social and economic position of women”. As a result, “the law has become an obstacle to the progress of the women, and therefore, a brake on the whole of society”. The blame for “this intolerable condition” rested in part with “a large section of our men folk” who refuse “to concede to us women the rights and privileges which they demand for themselves”.

The Charter concluded that women shall teach the men that they cannot hope to liberate themselves from the evils of discrimination and prejudice as long as they fail to extend to women complete and unqualified equality in law and practice. Further, it stated that freedom cannot be won for any one section or for the people as a whole as long as women are kept in bondage. The demands laid out in the “Women`s Charter” were ultimately incorporated into the “Freedom Charter”, adopted by the Congress of the People in Kliptown on June 25-26, 1955.

3
THE 2014 WOMEN’S MONTH

It is within this context that we analyse the progress made in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in South Africa: 60 years after the adoption of the Women’s Charter of 1954; 20 years after the adoption of the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality of 1994; 20 years after the advent of democracy and freedom in South Africa; and the upcoming 20 years after the country signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and ratified the CEDAW.

Great strides have been made since 1994 to improve the status of women. Prior to 1994, the South African Parliament had a mere 2,7% representation of women, and following the first democratic elections, women representation in the National Assembly stood at 27,7%. In 1999 that figure increased to 30% and then to 32.7% in 2004. After the 2009 national elections women representation reached 42%. Post the May 2014 elections women ministers comprise 43% of the Cabinet, women deputy ministers make up 46% of the total number of deputy ministers and there is a 41% representation of women in the National Assembly.

Furthermore, government policies and programmes have improved the living conditions of women. In 1997 the Office on the Status of Women (OSW) was established in the Presidency to steer the national gender programme and championed the development of the National Policy Framework for Women Empowerment and Gender Equality that was approved by Cabinet in 2000. Subsequently, similar structures (OSWs) were established in the Premier’s offices. In May 2009 the President pronounced on the establishment a Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD). In May 2014 the President evolved the structure to a dedicated Ministry for Women in the Presidency as a way of elevating women’s issues and interests to lead, coordinate and oversee the transformation agenda on women’s socio-economic empowerment, rights and equality through mainstreaming, monitoring and evaluation.

Since the advent of democracy and freedom South Africa has seen a number of women taking up leadership positions in areas previously dominated by men. One of the success stories of our democracy is that of the representation of women in political and decision-making positions. Involving women in governance processes constitutes one of South Africa’s globally acclaimed success stories.

The election of Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in July 2012 as the first women in Africa to chair the African Union Commission; the appointment of Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Deputy President of the country, as the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women; and the positioning of other South African women such as Ms Geraldine Frazer-Moleketi, Special Gender Envoy to the African Development Bank; Ms Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences; and Judge Navi Pillay as the High Commissioner for Human Rights and formerly as a judge in the International Criminal Court (ICC) is an indication of the impact that women in decision-making have in winning the trust and confidence of citizens in South Africa, on the continent and internationally.

Currently, women are heading portfolios such as the Commissioner of Police; the Public Protector; CEO of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange; the Independent Electoral Commission; Governor of the Reserve Bank, the South African Law Reform Commission, and the first female Deputy Auditor-General, among others.

Prior to 1994, South Africa had only one woman (White) Judge, whilst today women judges make up almost 28% of the Judiciary. Women are making inroads into business leadership and heading up global giants in the country such as the head of the ABSA bank. Women own conglomerates in the country with some business women being millionaires. Women also can be found as Chairpersons of corporate boards in the country, while others are entering and leading in previously male dominated territories, for example, the head of the Palaeontology Department in the University of Cape Town is a woman, and the South African Airways (SAA) now has women pilots, some flying international bound flights. Women are in the defence force, navy and air force in South Africa. In fact women make up almost 40% of the Senior Management Service in the public service and overall women comprise more than 50% of employees in the Public Service.

Women have even entered previously male dominated areas in the corporate world, and currently constitute 3.6% of CEO positions, 5.5% of chairperson positions, 17.1% of directorships and 21.4% of executive management positions.

These achievements, among many others, will be commemorated in the 2014 Women’s month within the broader 20 Years of Freedom celebrations, which will reflect on the following:
(a) How our democracy and freedom was achieved and how have we worked together
(b) Where were we then and where are we now
(c) Thanking the international community that played various roles in our liberation and equality struggles.
(d) Celebrating major gains since the attainment of our freedom.

The Women’s Charter of 1954 outlines eight (8) aims which forms the foundation for the twelve (12) articles contained in the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality of 1994. This is significant because the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality coincides with the dawn of democracy in South Africa. Thus, it serves as an appropriate tool to measure progress made on achieving the aims of the Women’s Charter of 1954 and women’s empowerment and gender equality within the twenty (20) years since the advent of democracy and freedom.

The journey of twenty (20) years of freedom on women’s emancipation is based on women’s human rights towards elimination of all forms of discrimination against women through social (Articles 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. 11 and 12) and economic (Articles 1, 3, 4, and 5) empowerment of women towards achieving gender equality.

The Articles outlined in the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality, 1994 are as follows:
• Article 1: Equality
• Article 2: Law and the administrative justice
• Article 3: Economy
• Article 4: Education and training
• Article 5: Development, infrastructure and environment
• Article 6: Social services
• Article 7: Political and civil society
• Article 8: Family life and partnerships
• Article 9: Custom, culture and religion
• Article 10: Violence against women
• Article 11: Health
• Article 12: Media

The celebration of 60 years of the Women’s Charter of 1954 is also within the context of continental and regional developments. On the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Africa ranked 4th out of 87 countries in the 2012 index and was the top-ranked country in Africa. On the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender and Development Index, South Africa ranked second in 2012, with a score slightly lower than that of the top performer, Seychelles. Indeed, South Africa could be considered to have reached most gender equality targets, if not exceeding them, using the indicators contained in these tools.

The celebration of the 2014 national Women’s Month is also the beginning of the discourse and engagement towards commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the 1956 women’s march in August 2016.

4
WOMEN’S MONTH PROGRAMME

4.1 Launch of Women’s Month: 31 July 2014

The National Women’s Month programme will be launched on 31 July 2014 in the form of a Media launch, which will be held at the Union Buildings from 10:00 – 12:00. Journalists from different media houses will be invited to the launch where the Minister for Women and the Minister for Arts and Culture accompanied by other key Ministers, will provide the context for this year’s celebrations and outline the programme for the month.
The launch of women’s month on the 31st of July is significant because this is also the Pan African Women’s Day. It was on this day that African women from across the continent united to form one association called the Pan African Women’s Organisation (PAWO). The intention was to share their experiences and combine their efforts for the emancipation and the total liberation of the African continent, and fight for the rights of African women. PAWO was launched on the 31st July 1962, at the Conference of African Women in Dar-es Salaam, Tanzania. It is important to recognise PAWO given the significant role the organisantion played in the liberation of South African women and their struggle for freedom, empowerment and gender equality.

4.2 SUB-THEMES

Key focus areas for 2014 national women’s month have been drawn from the Women’s Charter of 1954, the Charter for Effective Equality of 1994, and from the context in which the celebration of the 20 years of freedom in the country is being marked.

The celebration of the national women’s month reflects the role that women played in achieving democracy, freedom and equality, as well as assessing progress made towards women’s empowerment and gender equality (national reflection – then and now). This entails acknowledging the efforts made by women stalwarts in the struggle, as well as untold stories and unsung heroines.

The celebration acknowledges and appreciates the role of the international and regional communities in women’s struggle in the country, especially the Malibongwe Conference and the role of PAWO (South African women thank the world). This year’s celebration women’s month celebration will also show case 20 significant gains for South African women (key milestones: 20 best moments).

The sub-themes for the month’s celebration are as follows:
• Equality
• Non-discrimination and rights
• Socio-economic empowerment
• Moving the women’s agenda forward

1. EQUALITY

This sub-theme recognises the need to address the historical imbalances between women and men in all spheres of life including the law, political, civic and social life. This sub-theme is espoused by Aims 1 and 6 in the Women’s Charter, and reflected in Articles 1 and 7 in the Charter for Effective Equality:

Aim 1 – The right to vote and to be elected to all State bodies, without restriction or discrimination
Aim 6 – To build and strengthen women`s sections in the National Liberatory movements, the organisation of women in trade unions, and through the peoples` varied organisation.

All South African women did not have the right to vote until the Women’s Enfranchisement Act was introduced in 1930. This act only granted white women aged 21 and older the right to vote and to run for office. The first general election at which women could vote was the election of 17 May 1933. The First National Elections held in South Africa on 27 April 1994 was the first in which all women across the racial lines were allowed to vote, and were therefore also the first held with universal adult suffrage. The Bill of Rights in the Constitution guarantees every adult citizen irrespective of race or sex the right to vote and to stand for public office and if elected, to hold office.

The rights of women are entrenched in the Constitution in chapter 2 of the Bill of Rights which includes the right to form and /or participate in political parties. To date women in South Africa fully enjoy this right and participate in activities of different political organisations. Women occupy key positions in political parties and some political parties are led by women. The Bill of Rights also provides for women’s rights to form and join a trade union and participate in the activities and programmes of a trade union.

2. NON-DISCRIMINATION AND RIGHTS

The emphasis is on women’s rights as human rights and includes rights to legal status, land, property, inheritance, dignity, and freedom of association. The Women’s Charter addresses non-discrimination and rights in Aims 2, 3, and 5 that are linked to Articles 2, 9 and 10 of the Charter for Effective Equality:

Aim 2 – The right to full opportunities for employment with equal pay and possibilities of promotion in all spheres of work.
Aim 3 – Equal rights with men in relation to property, marriage and children, and for the removal of all laws and customs that deny women such equal rights.
Aim 5 – For the removal of all laws that restrict free movement that prevents or hinder the right of free association and activity in democratic organisations, and the right to participate in the work of these organisations.

South Africa introduced a number of laws which promote women’s empowerment and protection of their rights in the work place. The Constitution has been the main enabler in this regard, particularly through its statement of founding values, which include human dignity, non-sexism and the achievement of equality which include the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms.

The key legislative framework enacted since the dawn of democracy that have contributed to an enabling environment for women empowerment and the achievement of gender equality include: (i) Employment Equity Act of 1998; (ii) Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act of 2000; (iii) Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act of 2004; (iv) Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act of 2000; (v) Basic Conditions of Employment Act, among others.

The Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000 provides the framework for implementing section 9 of the Constitution. It seeks to promote achievement of equality and prevent and prohibit unfair discrimination on the grounds of, inter alia, gender, sex, and pregnancy. This Equality Act also broadly defines discrimination. In specific reference to discrimination against women, section 8 of the Equality Act provides a range of prohibited practices that constitute discrimination on the basis of gender.

Overall reduced gender disparities in access to employment and in employment were the mainstay for the greater part of the 20 years. Employment policies and conditions relate to pregnancy and parenting. Measures have also been put in place to protect domestic workers.

Legislation and policies promoting and protecting women’s rights in the home, in the community and in the workplace have been instituted. The Recognition of Customary Marriages Act (120 of 1998) abolished the minority status of women married under customary law and the marital power of husbands as guardians. It also gives women the right to custody of their children if it is in the best interest of the children. The purpose of this Act is to recognize and provide legal validity to all customary marriages that were valid according to customary law and existing as at 15 November 2000 and to recognize customary marriages entered into 15 November 2000. Section 8 of the Act contains the provisions regarding dissolution of customary marriages which are in line with civil law

The Divorce Courts Amendment Act (65 of 1997) opened the then Black Divorce Courts to all races, giving women access to less costly divorce proceedings and making it easier for many women to walk out of an abusive marriage, and with the right to custody where it is in the best interest of the children.

The Constitution of South Africa (section 34) guarantees everyone’s right to access the courts in pursuit of justice. South African women are guaranteed equal protection before the law. In this regard, section 9(1) of the Constitution provides that ‘everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law’, which includes the right to inheritance and succession.

The courts have made ground-breaking decisions that have seen women taking key leadership positions within traditional governance settings for example in the Shilubana & Others v Nwamitwa (2008) ZACC 9 case.

South African laws grant equal rights for women in respect of acquisition, transmission and changing of citizenship. The South African Citizenship Act 88 of 1995 provides that marriage does not affect women’s citizenship in the sense that a married woman is capable of acquiring or losing citizenship in all respects as if she were unmarried

The Bill of Rights guarantees women’s right to freedom of movement; the right to leave the Republic; the right to enter, remain in and to reside anywhere, in the Republic.

3. SOCIO-ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT

The socio-economic empowerment of women involves a focus on women’s education, health, access to productive resources (land, credit, and employment, among others) and social infrastructure. The Women’s Charter addresses socio-economic empowerment through Aim 4 and is aligned to Articles 3, 4, 5, 6, and 11 of the Charter for Effective Equality:

Aim 4 – For the development of every child through free compulsory education for all; for the protection of mother and child through maternity homes, welfare clinics, creches and nursery schools, in countryside and towns; through proper homes for all, and through the provision of water, light, transport, sanitation, and other amenities of modern civilisation

Progress is being recorded in the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger of women and girls through a social wage package including: free primary health care; no-fee paying schools; social grants, (such as old age pensions, and child support grants) and RDP housing; provision of basic and free basic services in the form of water; electricity; and sanitation to households, particularly those categorised as indigent women.

Universal primary education and compulsory schooling was introduced for the age group 7–15 years. The country has achieved gender parity at the schooling level. Overall, women account for 57.9% of tertiary students with 22% of females in the natural sciences.

On the health front, there is in place a comprehensive set of initiatives such as the Negotiated Service Delivery Agreement 2010–2024, the Strategic Plan for Maternal, New-born, Child and Women’s Health and the Campaign for Accelerated Reduction of Maternal and Child Mortality. One area where success is evident is the effective campaign of prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, where the rate fell from 8% to 2.7% in 2011. The level of maternal mortality is a concern to the South African government. It is encouraging however that the use of antenatal care during pregnancy is currently high in South Africa. In the area of HIV/AIDS, it is encouraging to note that HIV prevalence among the age group 15–24 years has decreased by almost 10%.

4. MOVING THE WOMEN’S AGENDA FORWARD

This sub-theme reviews progress made on women’s empowerment and gender equality over the 60 years and charts the road map for women’s advancement, development and a better quality of life. The Women’s Charter serves as a foundation from which the women’s agenda continues to be addressed as reflected in Aims 7 and 8, and Articles 8 and 12 of the Charter for Effective Equality

Aim 7 – To cooperate with all other organisations that have similar aims in South Africa as well as throughout the world
Aim 8 – To strive for permanent peace throughout the world.

The country has also made a number of key commitments at the sub-regional, continental and international levels on promoting women’s empowerment and achieving gender equality. These include, among others, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (ratified in 1995), the Beijing Declaration and its Platform for Action (signed in 1995), the Millennium Declaration and its Development Goals (MDGs) (adopted in 2000); African Union Heads of States’ Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (ratified in 2004); the African Women’s Protocol (ratified in 2004); and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

South Africa, through the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), continues to be the major African troop contributor and important role player in peace keeping missions in the region and the continent. Women constitute at least 40% of the peace keeping troops on missions outside the country.

4.3 COLLECTIVE CELEBRATION OF NATIONAL WOMEN’S MONTH

Stakeholders are encouraged to popularise and consider sector alignment of programmes to the Women’s Charter of 1954 and the Charter for Effective Equality of 1994. Popularisation can be done through schools, community based organisations, private sector, social media and internet. The means of popularisation of the Women’s Charter of 1954 and the Charter for Effective Equality of 1994 should be disability – and child-friendly.

In addition, other activities that consider the sub-themes for 2014 women’s month can include dialogues, debates, roundtables, workshops, panel discussions, written articles, role playing, radio talk shows, drama, storytelling, visits to Constitutional Hill, visits to historical museums, embarking on community projects, mobile service delivery and other exhibitions, among others. These activities should sustain the build-up to the commemoration of the 2016 National Women’s Month.
A rolling calendar will be developed comprising activities of a national nature hosted by various departments, CSOs, NGOs and other stakeholders. This will be coordinated by the Ministry for Women and published on the GCIS Website.

Stakeholders’ activities during the August month should identify other achievements and highlight twenty (20) best moments for women in the country.

9 August 2014

The official programme led by the Department of Arts and Culture, in collaboration with Department of Women and the host Province – KwaZulu Natal, will consist of among others the following components:
(a) Starting & Closing Time: The official programme is envisaged to take place from 11:00 a.m. to 13:00 p.m.
(b) The Podium Group: at the Podium it will be the President, Ministers, the Premier and Executive Mayor of the Municipality.
(c) Start of the Program: The program will commence at the arrival of the podium group from the protocol briefing.
(d) End of Official Program: The official program will end at the conclusion of the keynote address by the President of South Africa and the vote of thanks.

 

ANNEXURE A: 20 BEST MOMENTS

The following are some of the key milestones since the attainment of democracy, which serves to acknowledge women’s involvement, successes, institutional and/or structural transformation
• Women’s National Coalition convened a conference where the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality was adopted [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][Feb, 1994]
• Women entered Parliament [ May 1994]
• First Women Speaker, Ms Frene Ginwala [May 1994]
• SA celebrated first National Women’s Day [09 Aug 1995]
• South African women participated in the UN 4th World Conference for Women, in Beijing, China [ September1995]
• Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted [1995]
• Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women ratified without reservation [December 1995]
• The Commission for Gender Equality Act passed in National Parliament [1996]
• Constitution of the Republic of South Africa adopted [1996]
• Commission for Gender Equality established [1996]
• Establishment of Office on the Status of Women in the Presidency [1997]
• First Woman Deputy President appointed [2005]
• Caster Semenya wins gold at World Championships [2009]
• The Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities established [2009]
• Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma appointed as AU Chairperson [2012]
• SADC Protocol on Gender and Development ratified [2012]
• Ms. Geraldine Moleketi-Fraser: African Development Bank Gender Envoy [2013]
• Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ncquka appointed as Executive Director: UN Women [2013]

 

 

Preliminary Notice for Thursday 7 August

Women’s Day Policy Dialogue:

“Women and Children in Conflict Situations: Gaza, Sudan/South Sudan and
the Central African Republic”
Date: Thursday 7 August 2014
Time: (Registration 9.00 am) 9:30 am to 1.00 pm (Followed by Lunch)
Venue: Burgers Park Hotel, 424 Lilian Ngoyi St (Van der Walt Street),Pretoria
The programme will follow shortly

Please RSVP to Babalwa July on:
babalwa.july@sa-liaisonoffice.co.za

Phone: 021 680 5306

Cell: 078 851 2515

The Southern African Liaison Office (SALO) is a South African-based not-for-profit civil society organisation which, through advocacy, dialogue, policy consensus and in-depth research and analysis, influences the current thinking and debates on foreign policy especially regarding African crises and conflicts. LEARN MORE>>

Phone: +27 (0)21 680 5306 www.salo.org.za

 

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