Women's Day only serves to remind of the struggle women still go through

Dr Naledi Pandor and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are cabinet ministers and two of the most prominent women parliamentarians in South Africa today.
Dr Naledi Pandor and Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma are cabinet ministers and two of the most prominent women parliamentarians in South Africa today.
Image: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

Last Thursday, on the eve of Women's Day, Sowetan carried a story which has an extract stating: "South African women are seemingly under siege as they are generally underpaid, under-represented and are likely to be killed by their intimate partners.

"As the country marks Women's Day tomorrow, despite many strides and having one of the most progressive laws and policies on women empowerment and development, SA women still largely remain on the periphery in business, government and leadership in general."

As someone who works in media, hardly a day goes by without having contact with a story that depicts the brutal murder of a woman.

Imagine how many are not recorded and then recognise that even the chilling statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.

So, it is against this background that I encountered a letter that made me set aside my vow to never engage in these gender debates on a public platform.

A regular reader took exception at all the women-centred activity of Women's Day and went on a bender declaring: "In SA, black women deliberately misuse the notion of equal rights by challenging black men, in particular, at every aspect of their lives."

He gives no examples or context to how or why he is so appalled by women 'challenging' men.

He goes on and on, but then ominously warns: "It may seem sweet today to bash men and undermine them because it is August but it will be sour tomorrow. Our black boys are growing up bitter at being sidelined at the expense of girls."

The latter part of the statement is patently untrue and countless studies have confirmed it.

But there can be no bigger indicator of what is really going on at grassroots level than to consider that despite women making up the majority of the population, only two of the country's nine premiers are women.

Women's Day is personal for all women, but I take a breather to appreciate the brave women who sacrificed for all black people - not just women.

It would be wonderful if we lived in a country where it was not necessary to declare an entire month for women, but the reality is that we do so because it's important to highlight what brought us here.

I will quickly do a drive-by on recent headlines about the general state of affairs regarding womanhood around the globe.

The biggest international story has been the atrocities against young girls committed by an American billionaire, who has now died of a reported suicide.

Though we do not know all of the victims' identities or race, they are women nonetheless. Acclaimed gymnast Simone Biles also revealed that paedophile doctor Larry Nassar had sexually abused her, under the watch of USA Gymnastics.

Meanwhile in India, they are dealing with a raging epidemic of gang rapes, and the same can be said about various countries on our continent, many of whom have rendered women and children perpetually vulnerable through wars, disease and instability, while their bodies are reduced to being battlegrounds and proceeds of war lords.

Exhibit one: Boko Haram and the Chibok girls. You get my point, but here at home, the situation is just as dire.

I will not go through the list of all the men, prominent or otherwise, who have found themselves in trouble for actions and utterances.

We need to consciously pause to look back and see if we are still on track. Are we achieving what we need to? Are we taking the people we need to take with us? What are the successes and failures?

It highlights important discussions and narratives that we as a country still need to have. That is what Women's Day means to me, as a black woman.

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