Women’s position in the South African history has been recognised late only in the recent decades. Historical writings generally ignored women’s struggle for freedom against injustice, women who engaged extensively in racial segregation resistance and who struggled for the rights of the collectives and particularly of gender equality.
Women have been at the forefront leading in a foremost way towards the journey of liberation, peace and justice as far as history is concerned but that has not been adequately acknowledged. There is some reason for this invisibility of the role of women in our society. South African society is historically male-controlled and this lengthens to all ethnic groups in different notches. This indicates that men have been dominant and have power in the society while women have been seen as being inferior to men. The role of women was considered to be primarily domestic. It comprised of children’s education and the health, food and treatment of families. They were not supposed to deal with issues outside the household consequently men’s domain was more apt. Economic activity outside the household was appropriate to help feed the family but was not considered ‘feminine’.
This is particularly the appropriate time to be appreciating the role of women to the progress of the new South African democracy. Women displayed a strong commitment to social activism and took a stand to march against the ‘passes’. A pass was a documentation that the government of that time continually required blacks to bring with them. If someone had no pass, they would be denied the right to search for work or do work from the area where they lived. Persons without passes were sometimes arrested by police. Women displayed strong anger and disappointment to the government and boycotted official passes that restricted their movement. The courage and bravery of women of the time is given a standing ovation for their selflessness, irrespective of the fear of repressions they would face including imprisonment and even banning. South African women have been source of bravery for the entire society across the ethnic lines.
Nqubeko Langa who is a Medical student at University of KwaZulu-Natal claimed that there has been a considerable change in a manner in which women are treated in nowadays as compared to the apartheid era and they are getting recognition they deserve even though it is not as we want it to be. Women are at the helm of top tier companies leading change and other women are owning top notch businesses which was very strange in the older days and was considered to be only for men. Gabisile Motaung who is a Forensic Science student at the same institution further go along with saying that women’s day is a celebration or rather a commemoration of the importance of women in the society for their bravery and being risk takers and she agreed that there has been a slight change in the treatment and recognition of women over the years as women are now are being delegated to positions of leadership.
In South Africa, black women have been subjected to cultural and social exclusion. For that reason, they had more to combat and many women today, whether at work or home, continue to counter attack violence due to their gender.
Andile Mbuqu who is a Chief Operating Officer at Ubomi Foundation contended that for us to be free and equal, we must all join hands in fight to end sexism, patriarchy and violence against women in all forms. He indicated that women are not free at all and claimed that women in our country are not seen as capable of leading this country for that reason they are not competing on the equal footing as men. Sive Lande who is a Social Sciences student at Nelson Mandela University back up saying Women’s day really means nothing to him. There has been no substantial change in treatment of women as they still endure violence. Therefore, he does not find anything special about the day.
Society should respect women instead of ill-treating them. They must always recognize and acknowledge that women are the backbone of any society. Ironically, women are introduced into any area previously considered to be exclusively men’s domain under the post-apartheid era.
By Sanele Thwala