South Africa commemorates Women’s Month in August as a tribute to the thousands of women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women. The Government of South Africa declared the month August as the Women’s Month and 9th of August is celebrated annually as Women’s Day.
In order to continue promoting the Human Rights of women and girls in Cape Town, Africa Unite hosted a Women’s Day Celebration and interactive dialogue, themed “There is more to my Womanness” to promote agency and interpersonal development, as well as challenges of oppressive gender normative ideologies on women and girls.
The event was held on 1st of August 2014 at 6 Spin Street, Cape Town and attended by over sixty women from different backgrounds –from Universities, Corporate Companies, Civil Societies organisations, Government institutions, Community development workers, Artists, and youth from different sectors.
Two young female Masters of Ceremonies from Africa Unite welcomed everyone and
explained the purpose of the gathering. Africa Unite Programme Manager – Ms Ntombi Mcoyi was given the chance to speak and share with the rest of women about the impact of human rights for social cohesion programmes undertaken by Africa Unite in different communities.
Her presentation was followed by the Key note speaker- Dr Helen Scanlon a Senior Lecturer in the Gender Studies Section in the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics (Faculty of Humanities) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). She acknowledged the work undertaken by many NGOs including Africa Unite and strategies and measures put in place by different policy makers and stakeholders in addressing gender disparities. However, she highlighted how the legacy and implications
of South African history continue to influence and marginalise other women. One of the practical examples she gave was the worldwide media attention on the shooting of Reeva Steenkamp by Oscar Pistorius yet there has been less attention on the 17-year-old rape and murder of Anene Booysen. To conclude she mentioned a lot still need to be done especially at grassroot level in order to raise Gender awareness
Following her well applauded speech by the audience, a panel of discussion mainly composed of local young female students from UCT including a refugee woman from Sonke Gender Justice Network was opened for discussion. The panel was invited to respond to the following questions:
- You are all leaders and work to strengthen your community’s who or what drove you to be involved and work to better the lives of others?
- What role should men have in women empowerment work?
- What are your thoughts on gender norms and roles?
- What can we do to make a difference in our communities and also continue to promote transnational solidarity amongst women? And in your opinion, what is the best way to promote and take part in trans-national solidarity for women?
- Has any part of your identity created challenges with the work that you are involved in?
The floor was opened to the rest of the women to engage with the panel where they had the opportunity to share views on their struggles and successes which they endured as women
especially those coming from disadvantaged communities (townships & refugees).
However, the women agreed on the existing gender stereotypes and imbalances and thereby recommended that women must take a firm position in realising their own emancipation.
One of the interesting remarks was also shared by a representative from Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) who mentioned that often women get the chance to take leadership roles through voting, but it all goes in vain as most of them do not like to be registered as voters, or if they vote, they often vote for men in power positions.
During intervals the audience were entertained through dance and poetry by young female local and refugee poets who dedicated their scripts to women. The participants were also stunned by a young female dancer from UCT who performed African Contemporary Dance.
The highlight of the day was made by the famous South African singer Vicky Samspson who electrified the audience with a few of her hit songs- ‘My African Dream’. The crowd was moved by her performance, but she also highlighted a short story of her struggles and
challenges growing up as a young girl with a single mother in Hanover Park Cape Town.
Africa Unite was honoured to celebrate this special day with women from all walks of life. It is, however, critical to note that the Government of South Africa has made significant progresses in empowering women in the political, public and educational spheres, but there are still a lot of underlying factors and challenges that reinforce gender inequalities which still need to be addressed.
To close the event, the vote of thanks was given by Nonhlanhla Chanza Africa Unite’s vice chairperson who thanked the different stakeholders who accepted our invitation as follows: Table Bay Hotel, Spar, IEC, University of Cape Town (UCT), SAY-F, Local Government, Mama Afrika, Robben Island, Cape Town Carnival, Sonke Gender Justice, Peace Network, Life Assist, World Wide Women Association, community workers, artists, youth and Africa Unite peer educators and interns for making this day a success.
For more pictures click here.