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Women’s Day Message from DAWN

SOUTH AFRICA, 09 August 2018 – Today is National Women’s Day and a public holiday in South Africa. This day commemorates the historic march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria as thousands of women from across the country gathered to protest against pass laws in 1956.

To mark the occasion, the Federal Leader of the Democratic Alliance Women’s Network (DAWN), Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, addressed media and the public outside the Bheki Mlangeni District Hospital in Jabulani, Soweto. The hospital is at the centre of a sex-for-jobs scandal, where 100 women exposed senior officials who demanded sexual favours and cash in exchange for access to job opportunities.

Below is a highly relevant and succinct transcript of Dr Mbombo’s speech, which is well worth reading:

“Fellow Democrats. South Africans. Women of our beloved South Africa.

When the women of 1956 embarked on a march to the seat of the Apartheid Government, they did so not merely as women but as leaders who wanted to change the unfair status quo. Like the youth of 1976, their protest and agenda were not isolated to fight for the rights of those who they represent – women and young people – their fight was for the rights and humanity of all people. Women, men; young and old; black, white, Indian and coloured people.

We owe this generation of women and young people better than the society we live in now. It is not right that women and young people make up the majority of the almost 10-million jobless South Africans. These aren’t faceless people, they are our neighbours, our sisters, our mothers; people who have dedicated their existence to not only keeping families together but also building communities through their selfless struggle for equality.

Women bear the brunt of the humanitarian crisis of unemployment. A crisis caused by an ANC government only focused on enriching themselves and who don’t know how to manage the real problems South Africa faces. Using the expanded unemployment figure, 41,2% of women are without work, compared to 33,7% of men.

This humanitarian crisis leaves women vulnerable to the oppressive and inhumane system of patriarchy and the abuse, physical and mental, which accompanies it.

At the hospital behind us, at least 100 courageous women came forward to state that they were forced to engage in a ‘carpet interview’ and pay in order to gain access to jobs at the hospital. The women who refused to be party to this illegal and corrupt act were dismissed.

This corrupt act which strips women of their dignity does not stop once one gets a job, it continues because threats of dismissal are made if they do not continue subjecting their bodies to men in power.

Democrats, South Africans, we cannot run away from the fact that men are the ones actively committing these acts. Therefore, the good men around us have a critical role to play in the fight against gender-based violence.

As a man, when you hear your friends making crude comments about women, call them to order. When you see a woman being harassed, intervene. The fight for women’s rights is a fight for human rights, as encapsulated in our glorious Constitution. Teach your sons from an early age the right way to treat a woman. You can end the cycle.

We need to stand together in keeping women safe, in both public and private space; whether in the workspace on our streets.

To the Police Officers here, your role is also of critical importance. When women enter the Charge Office, you have a duty and responsibility to listen, be compassionate and investigate. You have a job to restore order and keep our communities safe. Be honest and professional. Serve and protect with pride.

Democrats, South Africans,

What is abundantly clear is that ANC government is part of the problem. Mdu Manana was treated with extreme dignity when there was a video of him abusing women. When one of his employees came forward to tell her horror story, the ANC and ANC Women’s League kept quiet. When an ANC branch leader kicked a lady outside Luthuli House, no action was taken.

When women, in their numbers, marched to the Union Buildings under the banner of #TotalShutdown they were left to wait for hours before their memorandum was received by the ANC government.

The ANC government does not respect women nor does it have a plan to keep our mothers and sisters safe from abuse. It does not care and it does not know how to.

Democrats, South Africans,

We have the power to change our beautiful country, where women are treated as equals at all levels of society.

The next election is your chance to choose between the corruption and exploitation of women or change that protects and advances the interests of women.

The DA will bring change that builds One South Africa for All. Change that promotes fair access to real, long-term jobs.

A DA government will ensure that carpet interviews are criminalised and all perpetrators arrested by an honest and professional police service that protects our people.

This women’s month, join the movement that puts the people of South Africa first. Join the team that builds One South Africa for All.

In honour of the 20,000 women who marched for change in 1956, we have a great opportunity to bring about the kind of change they imagined. Our journey towards a better South Africa is far from over.

The power to change South Africa is in your hands.”