Needle needs to move for Women’s Month
Every year in August, we celebrate women – there are high teas in high heels, talks by prominent women in all spheres of public life and Women’s Month specials in every retail store. But achieving real gender parity is as far off today as it ever was.
Women are not safe, girls are not safe. They are being killed and attacked by their intimate partners or caregivers. Every week, we publish “the rape map”, a roundup of the week’s sexual violence cases. There’s no significant drop in what we report. In fact, ever more terrible stories emerge.
Women are not making it into the boardrooms of South Africa either. According to the recently released 2015 South African Women in Leadership Census, which was conducted by the Businesswomen’s Association of SA, only 8.79% of JSE-listed companies have 25% or more female directors.
Women also continue to carry the burden of family life – 39% of children live only with their mothers, while only 4% live just with their fathers.
Women also earn less than their male counterparts – globally, the call for equal pay for equal work continues.
While Cabinet boasts 40% female representation, and state-owned enterprises came out of the same survey with the best numbers of 40%, the fact remains that the lives of ordinary women and girls in South Africa are still undervalued. We have a department set up specifically to deal with the disconnect between the Constitution and the treatment of women, but the needle hardly moves.
Women make up 51.2% of the total South African population, and this country is squandering more than half of its human capital because of prejudices and practices that belong in a time of apartheid. This doesn’t mean we can’t have high tea during Women’s Month, but it does mean that we need to balance celebration with action and insist on transformation for all – now.