What would you march for in 2016?
I pondered about this question, inspired by the commemoration of the women’s march in 1956 that changed the course of our history 60 years ago on August 9.
This momentous occasion was a part of the struggle for our freedom and women’s rights, where more than 20000 single-minded and galvanised ladies said “enough is enough”, “phansi nge dom pass, phansi”.
The women’s march was an extraordinary development in the liberation struggle of our country. It’s a shining example of what we can achieve when we actively pursue a greater common purpose.
At least 20000 women from all races and backgrounds, some with children on their backs, knew the winds of change began with the actions of ordinary citizens.
Standing in unity , they knew fear was not an option . Part of their petition read: “We came as a women united in our purpose to save the African women from the degradation of passes.”
Talking to some of my colleagues this week, I posed the question: “What would you march for in 2016?”
Think about it. In 1956, the struggle was political. Yes, the recent “fees must fall” march was a collective effort, but we often don’t fight for the collective.
I think today it’s all about the survival of the self. Some 40 years later, and the same winds of change have re-appeared.
Young people realise they have to act decisively to secure the future they deserve.
Issues in 2016 include:
1. Sanitary towels. Sadly, nine million girls in Mzansi aged between 13 and 19 miss a week of school monthly due to lack of sanitary pads.
2. Education. It is clear that education is the pestle and mortar from which we will grow this country.
3. Gender pay gap. Women are still paid far less than men for the same job. There are only 11.6% women CEOs and chairpersons, 21.9% women directors, 29.3% women executive managers. All this, when we make up 51.2% of the population.
4. Objectification. Young women in our country are subject to media onslaught, which feeds them images of European ideals of beauty. They end up seeking validation and financial support in the arms of “blessers” because many come from broken families.
What is our common value system? Is it the importance of an inner dialogue as it relates to one’s ability to reach one’s goals? Or is it the all encompassing reality of common purpose, and the power we’ll have as women if we choose to support and uplift other women?
We saw this power 60 years ago, and I have seen it daily in women who choose to cast off fear and move forward together.
This Women’s Month, let us celebrate our power and show young women how much of this is still very much theirs for the taking.
Wathint’ abafazi wathint’ imbokodo!