By Ann McDonnell, MPL, Member of the DA Caucus in the KZN Legislature:
During today’s Women’s Day debate I will confine myself to three points – the Freedom women Deserve, Fairness is true Equality and Opportunity is only limited by women’s dreams.
Freedom women Deserve;
This month we remember the 1956 march of very brave women to demand the end of the wicked pass laws. I wonder what they would say if they could see us now?
I will always give credit where it is due and we have indeed done really well in the political sphere in terms of representation in political structures. Iconic woman such as Helen Suzman, Helen Zille, Lindiwe Mazibuko and Sandra Botha come to mind.
Where we lack though is in the protection of our mothers and daughters. As government that is our mandate. The murder of an albino girl last week in northern Zululand is so barbaric it must send chills down the spines of all of us in South Africa.
Abuse, both physically and emotional continues and seems to have grown in South Africa – both in the supposed safety of their homes and in the streets– making our beautiful country, very insecure for women. This applies to women of all ages – from young girls to gogos.
Fairness is true equality;
Here I am basing my concern on the importance of family – whatever that may look like in your context. Visit any state institutions on any day and you will witness young and mature mothers and grandmothers queuing for hours, sometimes days, for social welfare, health and home affairs services for themselves and their children.
It sounds trite to state that two people make a baby – why then does the burden mainly fall on only one of these people?
A Human Sciences Research council report from 2006 gives the scary stats that 75% of abandoned children are abandoned by their father. Their description of abandonment is not keeping contact or providing support.
A Sowetan newspaper in 2011 headlined that there are “Nine million kids with no Dads” – a figure gained from research into family breakdown by South African Institute of Race Relations.
The research found that the absence of fathers when children grow up is one of the several factors which are associated with poor educational outcomes, anti-social behaviour, delinquency and disrupted employment later in life
After much lobbying this year by the DA, maintenance defaulters will now risk credit judgement. At last – mind you it is pathetic to place the importance of paying maintenance for a child’s future at the same level as furniture, cars, and appliances payments. The burden is still largely carried by mothers and grandmothers
Opportunity for a woman or girl child only to be limited by her dreams;
Our women deserve education from ECD to tertiary and government and private sector employment – no quotas, just empowerment. Our much vaunted freedom won in 1994 is not worth a thing if our women are still trapped by historical, familial and some outdated traditional practises.
School girl pregnancies limit the future of our daughters, making them drop out of school and lose the impetus of their education.
South Africa needs to quantify the cost of the National Woman’s Ministry and its value in combating the scourge of the social ills befalling our daughters. We need to see if there is a better way of investing in the safety of vulnerable girls and women.
Surely it makes more sense to invest scarce resources on the ground, accessible to vulnerable women, rather than in a Ministry whose performance is at best hidden and at worst a mess?
This Ministry and any gender initiatives the KZN legislature puts in place, must be relevant to the people it serves, accessible to the poor and breaking the chains binding our women.
Currently the National department is spending 64% of its budget on salaries and overspends on travel and admin – not much left for programmes, shelters or special courts for victims of violence and abuse. Not a good story!
No ministry has ever been able to change people’s behaviour – this is a job for visionary leaders and goes beyond politics.
In spite of women making up 54% of the population, they face the same triple challenge of poverty unemployment and inequality. Add to this the challenge of disease and caring for the sick in their families and there is a quadruple challenge for women.
This has been hugely negative.
On a more positive note – KZN has a unique opportunity right now. Our challenges of power supply and empowerment of women could be the basis of a wonderful economic opportunity – the manufacture and installation of solar panels for electricity generation.
We have abundant sunshine, and if these plants are situated in rural areas owned and run by women they will be given their rightful place in society. A woman powered green economy initiative, I am sure we could get funding for this, and the technology is available.
To wrap up – let us give our women their rightful place in families and society in KZN and South Africa.
Let them taste the Freedom they deserve.
Let them enjoy the Fairness of equality.
Give them the Opportunity to achieve their dreams