Their fight was not in vain

Monday, April 10, 2017

When a group of South African women waged a struggle in 1956 against the discriminatory pass laws, it was their brave efforts that helped further draw the attention of the world to the injustices that were taking place in South Africa.

Like in many parts of the world, the 1950’s marked a time when women in South Africa were experiencing all forms of discrimination.

Last month, the country celebrated Human Rights Month. SAnews took a look at some of the measures that South Africa has initiated since 1994 to promote and protect the rights of women in all spheres of their lives.

There is no doubt that South African women have come a long way since the dawn of democracy. The number of women in political leadership positions has increased tremendously over the past two decades. Today, there are more women judges, magistrates and leaders in the public sector. 

South Africa has adopted significant legislative reforms and has developed policies and programmes based on the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, which seek to promote and protect women’s rights in the home, community and workplace.

Among the interventions to achieve equity in the workplace, government amended the Employment Equity Act which aims to promote equal opportunity and fair treatment in employment.

The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill (WEGE), which was adopted in 2014 has also been described as a major milestone for gender equality in the public and private sectors.

WEGE pushes for the gradual realisation of at least 50% representation of women in decision making structures.

It further affirms the commitments to the promotion of gender equality and prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender, as provided for in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution.

In addition, South Africa signed and ratified the international instruments including, amongst others, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and the SADC Gender Protocol.

At the 61st Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women held in New York from 13-24 March 2017, where South Africa participated, Minister in the Presidency Responsible for Women Susan Shabangu highlighted that South African government has made progress in advancing women and gender parity in the workplace in a relatively short period of time.

“Consistent with our Gender Mainstreaming objectives, we remain committed to changing the very fabric of gender disparity in our economy e.g. in business, in construction and technical industries,” Minister Shabangu told delegates.

Delivering the Country Statement, Minister Shabangu noted that government has increased black women directorship of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) Listed Companies.

“In 2006, there were 114 black women directors in JSE-listed companies, a number that increased to 385 by 2016. Since January this year, it is now mandatory for all listed entities to have a policy of promoting gender diversity at board level, as well as disclosure of how they are performing against this policy,” Minister Shabangu noted.

In the Judiciary, statistics currently show that of the 242 permanent judges, 86 are women – representing about 35% of the total.

Just recently, President Jacob Zuma nominated Justice Mandisa Maya as the President of the Supreme Court of Appeal. The appointment made Maya the first female president of the second highest court in South Africa.

The President had also in the past appointed women as judges to serve on various High and Labour Courts in the country. –