This year’s Women’s Month aimed at commemorating the struggle of women for a free, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa…a call for equality have come and gone! 

Now, Nthambeleni Gabara takes a look on whether the identity and dignity of women in the country is being restored or not…

Women’s rights are human rights. We all know that the Bill of Rights guarantees everyone…women and girls included, freedom of movement in this country. 

However, in South Africa, we still have those who conduct themselves as if all forms of gender-based violence are enshrined in the Bill of Rights. 

We all know that hard facts on the ground reveal the good, the bad and the ugly of the country with the most progressive policies aimed at advancing women empowerment and gender equality. 

Yes, sometimes negative stories about our country come from ourselves as South Africans. 

It is not misrepresentation of facts to tell it as it is.  Women in this country live in constant fear to be coerced into sex, raped, abducted or brutally killed either by strangers or someone they trust.  

Truth be told, we note an array of measures introduced by government in the past 28 years to promote women empowerment in terms of drastically improving their position and conditions in the country.

However, as long as women and young girls are still raped and killed by the people they trust and strangers (including people from other African countries), building a peaceful and prosperous South Africa remains a daunting hardship. 

Today, we are left with no option, but to remind each other that women’s rights are human rights. This is so because women are still violated daily under our watchful eye. 

As if that is not enough, young girls are constantly the latest victims of the booming secret business of human trafficking. 

This is a lucrative criminal enterprise that generates over $150 billion a year at the expense of young girls around the world, I was told.  

Currently, there is no South African who can deny that gender-based violence in this country is unacceptably high.

With all these atrocities against women, the struggle for gender-based violence should be intensified and women in leadership should be at the forefront of that change. 

In this country and elsewhere in the world, we know the impact and the legacy of the historic march led by women on 9 August 1956 to the Union Buildings. Those women, succeeded in delivering a list of demands to the apartheid regime which at the time, sought to restrict their movements through the Pass law. 

During that historic march, women came together in a dignified demonstration of unity and power to demand the emancipation of women from all forms of discrimination. 

In their speech, they declared they would not rest until they had won for their children, the fundamental rights of freedom, justice and security. 

As a result of their brave show of leadership, today under the African National Congress-led government, women are occupying influential positions of power where they are expected to continue the fight and play crucial roles in decision-making processes.

If you are one of the women in a leadership position and you go to the podium to address the masses, if, in the aftermath of your speech, none of them see no mountains moving, then you deserve to be thanked for nothing. 

Now, the question is what then would be the legacy of these women currently occupying strategic positions in our society when they vacate their positions? What will they leave behind? How will they be remembered?    

Perhaps another crucial question is: what is the impact of women currently occupying strategic positions in the public service space, state-owned entities and the private sector in the country concerning the total emancipation of women?

The struggle for the total emancipation of women and girls is still far from over despite us having women occupying strategic positions in both the public service space and the private sector.

The freedom of expression that has been afforded to everyone in South Africa, is somewhat being utilised by women leaders. However, their voices are not being recognised if not heard or ignored.

The question is whether women in leadership are speaking loud enough? I wonder why perpetrators are ignoring the voices of women in leadership. 

What role are women leaders playing to break the chains of gender based violence and dependency for marginalised women in townships and rural areas in this country? 

Again, if you are a woman leader occupying a strategic position in this country, how would you like to be remembered… what would be your legacy in terms of providing solutions to the day-to-day challenges faced by women in your workplace and society in general? 

Women make up 56 percent of the estimated 1.2 million public servants in the country, yet, we are still battling to find the best ways of ensuring that vulnerable women and girls are safe and protected from all forms of gender-based violence.

We all know that as a nation, we seem to be excelling in organising marches against gender-based-violence. 

It is also true that there is no country in the SADC region which can compete with us with regard to driving awareness campaign against gender based-violence, yet gender based-violence remains high in our country.

According to the National Development Plan (NDP) by 2030, people living in South Africa will feel safe at home, at school and at work, and they will enjoy a community life free of fear…that women will walk freely in the streets and children play safely outside.

Now, it remains to be seen whether what is envisioned in the NDP will be realised in the next eight years.

Nthambeleni Gabara is a professionally-trained journalist who holds a Bachelor of Technology degree from the Tshwane University of Technology. The journalist-turned government communicator is the Deputy Branch Secretary of NEHAWU at the DPSA and he writes on his personal capacity.