August has probably seen the most controversy as far as women are concerned and if the events of this month have not made you realise that the voice of women shall no longer be silenced, then ignorance is probably still quite prevalent.
It is known that August is Women’s Month, where women in South Africa (and across the world) are celebrated for their contribution to the advancement of society and their recognition within this society. The common error that a lot of people make, is to think that women should merely be celebrated in this month, but in actual fact, women should be embraced everyday and this month should serve as a reflection on their constant struggles.
At the beginning of this month (06 August 2016), a silent protest was staged when President Jacob Zuma was giving the Local Government Election results and the motive behind this protest was to highlight the lack of appropriate measures being put in place to bring perpetrators of rape to book. It has been 10years since he was acquitted of a charge of rape that had been raised against him and the ladies who staged the protest wanted their solidarity for rape victims to be known. Considering how rape culture has slowly turned into a ‘norm’ because of how even those who tend to get convicted for it sometimes get off with a light sentence or get let off the hook.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the 1956 march to the Union Buildings which saw women of all races coming together to voice their concerns and dissatisfaction over the issues they were faced with. On Women’s Day (9 August 2016), the Women’s Living Heritage Monument was unveiled at the Union Buildings, to honor those women who fought for some of the freedoms we enjoy today.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed at the South African Women in Dialogue’s Women’s Day Celebration on the 12th of August, where Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka emphasised that the importance of this document was “to ensure that women’s issues are placed under careful consideration and don’t go neglected any longer than they already have.” There was a general outcry over the high prices on basic sanitary products and how the lack of access to them tends to be a major setback for a lot of young girls.
Pick ‘n Pay sought to underpin the growing need to address this societal concern by reducing their sanitary pads to R10 (4 per customer) on the 22nd of August. This encouraged people from across the country to buy pads, not only for themselves or their loved ones, but also to support sanitary drives nationwide. The motive behind this was a great way to raise awareness and get everyone actively involved, though it would probably be more beneficial if this were to be transformed into a monthly drive, rather than a once-off ‘deal’.
Sexism and racism continue to be contributors to the hindrance of our social progress. Having won a gold medal and setting a new, personal national record at the Olympic Games held in Rio (Brazil), Caster Semenya once again found herself under scrutiny over her sex. The controversy, once again, arose from the question of whether she is eligible to compete with other females because of her testosterone levels being higher than usual. Is this going to be a scapegoat attack to drag her down each time she triumphs over her competitors? Will she ever just enjoy her victory without coming under attack over her sexual orientation? Is society ever just going to accept her for who she is or does she have to constantly go through her life waiting to hear what criticism might come of her achievements?
There were notable racial tensions amidst the Olympics and just this week, learners at Pretoria Girls High School took a stand against the issue of racism. On the 29th of August 2016, social media was abuzz with scenes from outside the school of young girls who were challenging the mockery of their ‘Africanness’ and how their treatment at the school proves how rife racial prejudice is. Seeing such young girls having to be at the forefront of such is both commendable and disheartening at the same time, as they grew weary of remaining mum about their sentiments and chose to stand up for what they believe in, but at the same time, these are young girls who should be in class enjoying the fruits of the acquisition of knowledge. We need to look at whether society isn’t then to be held accountable for failing these young children for so long? What then, of the women who advocate for their cause but continue to weigh their heads down with all this artificial hair?
Perhaps we first need to understand why we support certain causes first, instead of merely wanting to add out voices to the count, as it would be more beneficial if we learnt to stand in solidarity and actually see our support through, long after the issues that are raised at a certain point in time are somewhat addressed, either partially or completely (though that is a timeous process).
Throughout the month of August, Prowl had a #WomenHeroesMonth feature, sharing the work of some females who are making a difference within their society and in the lives of others and we will continue to share the stories of many other women who continue to inspire others, as we believe that women should not only be celebrated because the calendar reminds us to, but because women deserve to be appreciated for their continuous impact in the world at large.
We will be adopting the notion of ‘Lead The Way You Wish To Be Led‘ from this point onward, where we will continue to reflect on how the #Mbokodos in our society continue to lead us.
I am a young, South African-born lady, who is passionate about writing.
I am currently in my final year at the University of South Africa, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Leadership and Citizenship.