Freedom has not trickled through to black women

Freedom has not trickled through to black women.
Freedom has not trickled through to black women.
Image: 123RF/NYUL

After commemorating Workers' Day, it is important not to forget that the struggle for women's emancipation is far from over.

It took the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela to wake us up to the fact that we are still a patriarchal, white-male dominated society with African women languishing at the bottom of the economic rung.

Though the black man has assumed political power, the status quo has not changed. He thought that all the years of fighting for political and economic emancipation had finally paid off.

He ascended the throne of power armed with the script from his predecessor - the white man - and continued to do to the African woman what the white man did to him.

The black man entered the corporate sector and the boardroom, but did not ensure that cultures and norms that still disempowered African women were changed to ensure that she was allowed to thrive.

Instead with the black man at the helm of the white corporate world, black women are still disadvantaged, if not worse, and find it very difficult to climb up the corporate ladder.

Numbers speak for themselves.

According to Statistics South Africa, of the top 40 JSE-listed companies, only one company has had a female CEO and she certainly isn't black or African.

And Stats SA shows that women still earn 23% less than men for doing the same work.

The organisation estimated that men earned a median income of R3500 a month while women earned R2700 a month in 2015. And yet women are the breadwinners.

This means as a country we are doing injustice to our children who depend for survival on their mothers, the majority of whom are single parents.

There are many of us who were raised by single mothers and yet, when we assume positions of power, women are not good enough to lead.

On August 9 1956 more than 20000 women of all colours marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the apartheid government's notorious pass laws.

This march brought to the fore the struggle for women's emancipation and their rights to be treated as equals in the land of their birth.

When South Africa was liberated, decades after the march to Pretoria, the founders of the constitution recognised the role played by women in our liberation struggle. They created the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill that calls for 50% representivity in decision-making structures such as parliament, the judiciary, the workplace, among others.

But do they? The answer is they do not.

Even the governing party fails to follow this cardinal rule to give women a shot at the reigns of power.

Before and during the ANC's elective December conference at Nasrec, there was much talk that 24 years after our first democratic elections, our country might give us our first female president.

What is even a surprise is that after Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma failed to make it as the ANC president, the delegates didn't even vote for a woman to become deputy, thus giving us hope that maybe in the near future South Africa would have a female president.

Madikizela-Mandela, who stood by her husband Nelson Mandela after his incarceration on Robben Island, was treated as a pariah by her own organisation.

She kept the home fires burning, but we didn't see it fit to officially honour her as the mother of the nation.

Somehow we take women for granted - that they have to fight unjust laws, while men stand by.

We took Madikizela-Mandela for granted. We didn't appreciate her heroism and the leadership qualities she displayed during the struggle for our liberation. Patriarchy let her down.

If her death has made us realise how unfair we are treating women, what are we going to do about it?

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