Gender equality was close to Mandela’s heart

Gender equality was close to Mandela’s heart

Date: July 18, 2017
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By Tarisai Nyamweda

Johannesburg, 18 July:Today the world celebrates the life of one of the world’s most iconic figures Nelson Mandela. This year we celebrate Mandela Day under the theme “Action against poverty”. Mandela Day presents a great opportunity to revisit commitments made to advancing gender equality.

Mandela believed “Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. Our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.” Under his administration, Mandela was able to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), establish the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE); he appointed more women in his cabinet and declared 9 August women’s day in honour of the thousands of women who marched for equality and justice in 1956 amongst other things. In 2013, Colleen Lowe Morna wrote that Mandela’s gift to South Africa was not only the first democratic elections… but also the opening of the door to women’s empowerment.”

When juxtaposing the current women’s rights situation in the region to Mandela’s ideals we are far from achieving freedom and emancipation of women from oppression.  Women continue to fight increasingly intersecting struggles of race, gender and class. At a recent event for the Catholic Women’s Union in the town of Marrainhill, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former African Union Commission chairperson, attests to these struggles saying, “The face of poverty is feminine especially in South Africa because women suffer triple oppression. We are oppressed because we are poor, black and female. The triple and persistent challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment affect women more than they do men.”

Women’s struggles continue to increase due to massive gender inequalities. Economics and politics remain male driven and dominated, Gender Based Violence is on the increase, access to education is not equal, laws and policies often limit women’s access to resources amongst so much more. Women continue to live in poverty due of lack of sufficient empowerment. This is disabling them from getting opportunities that will assist them to step outside of the cycle of poverty.

An Oxfam research found the world over eight men own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity. In South Africa, three billionaires (all men) have the same wealth as the bottom 50%. Early this year UN Women in response to the gender wage gap launched the #stoptherobbery campaign on the premise that globally, women only make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men for work of equal value. Furthermore, women in developing are said to work 73 more minutes per day than men.  These shocking disparities show that inequalities are still real and pervasive and it will take time to address these challenges and establish inclusive economies that can drive away poverty.

SADC countries have prioritised women’s economic empowerment through signing instruments such as the SADC Gender Protocol and the SADC Industrialisation strategy, which give women hope to participate effectively and reap benefits that will ensure a better future and status.  However, how far have we come in achieving the targets stipulated in the protocols that will help eradicate poverty by 2030? How far have our governments built in gender responsive budgets, policies and laws, education and training, deliberately pushed for equal access and participation and made these trickle down to the local poor and often neglected women?

We need concerted efforts to be high on the agenda from not only government but also civil society, business and communities to assist women in realising their full potential politically, economically and socially. This can start to drive away poverty.

As we try to make everyday a Mandela Day let us reflect more on the ideals that Mandela lived for. Mandela stood up for the rights of all but especially of women and without socio-economic and political freedom; women will continue to suffer from all forms of oppression.

Tarisai Nyamweda is the Media Coordinator at Gender Links. She writes in her personal capacity. This blog is part of the Gender Links News and Blogs service.


2 thoughts on “Gender equality was close to Mandela’s heart”

Rev. Marreece Dean says:

I do mission work with the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe as to the Nyarutombo Primary School in the Mbire District! A tough situation as to children of school age! Yet, I know that here in the United States-Primary Schools does not take on what Nyarutombo is taking! Not ant school here! Poor, I had to learn where I came from! The teachings I received! What you going to do now since you are older now? I saw two parents! I learned and I observed! Today, more so the respect to the woman! The many avenues of approaches in their lives that goes/covers many years beyond-especially to children she will never forget! Struggling, they will answer why me! Yet the expectation from them is of high yet, many deem them as just another! This is why my teachings in life is that WOMEN-TODAY, you can raise the bar above your head and keep striving! My expectations and sayings, why you bring yourself back down again? You may say pride kills but I say STANDARDS works! High standards! No, I will not! I might! Can’t say! We’ll talk about it! Standards are an essential in a woman’s life today with morals, convictions, and dedication to realize–I am not what I use to be and striving what I want to be!!! And that’s ME! Mandela knew to hold a woman down, you are asking for a cave in the home! Most time you are asking fir many things not getting done! And surely, you are asking for isolation because they are loved by many when men don’t care to be loved by nobody–SELF!!! Mandela knew GOD who makes everything alright that the women don’t necessarily have to take it–They surely know how to make it! With You or Without You! Women-Do the positives–Negative begat Negative! When door is closed! Kerp on striving because every door is not closed to you all as women!

Sanjay Kumar panda says:

My gender (male) is not link with epfo uan number. Please rectify this problem.

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