Women have shaken off the shackles of the past and in their determined struggle against political and socio-economic oppression, have deservedly earned themselves a place in the history books of our great nation. The sad reality however is that South Africa remains far from being the paradise it promised to be for women as they remain bound in the shackles of patriarchy.
A health survey conducted by Stats SA reveals that 21% of women over 18 in South Africa or one in five women have experienced violence by their partners. Shockingly, women between the ages of 14 and 29 accounted for about 39% of femicides.
These figures are both alarming and prove that South African women live in a war zone. Patriarchy remains deeply entrenched within the fabric of our society to such an extent that most women consider it to be a normal way of life. Silence is no longer an option!
Too many accounts of the struggle for justice in South Africa focus almost exclusively on racial justice. Yet we have complex and multiple identities. Who wins and who loses when gender, for example, is rendered either invisible or less important than our racialised identities in both the archives of history and in our public records about the struggles against colonialism?
In a bid to unpack this, the Apartheid Museum will host a public debate on the 9th of August to take up the challenge to recall and discuss the experiences of women of all backgrounds in the struggle against oppression and for a just and inclusive South Africa.
Women aren’t homogenised, and even constructions of gender must, of course, be interrogated to intersect with ideas of class, geography, political association, and other markers. But a good starting point in the battle against forgetting is to begin to push back against reductions of history to grand narratives about The Big Men prominent in our textbooks and public celebrations of who the giants of history were.
The debate will feature Commissioner Nomasonto Mazibuko, Author Thuli Nhlapho, Sociology and Anthropology lecture Dr Babalwa Magoqwana, Radio 702 talk show host Eusebius McKaiser and will be moderated by Author Prof Christi van der Westhuizen.
This public debate aims precisely to right these wrongs by affording an opportunity to fill in the gaps in public memory about the full range of experiences of women in the struggle.
“Women must be at the forefront of nation building to bring the South African citizenry together and therefore develop a whole new ethos of human co-existence” – Steve Biko. However, unless we truly apprehend and comprehend the words of Biko, women will remain trapped within the confines of the society.
The element of respect for girls, boys, women and men, people of all genders and all ages, if inculcated in the mind of children, should produce a generation of decent gentle folk.