As South Africa marks National Women’s Day, the UN reaffirms its commitment to work with its partners and South African citizens to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to contribute to creating a conducive environment where women and girls in South Africa reach their full potential, gender equality is achieved, and the human rights of all citizens are respected and protected.
While women in South Africa have indeed made great strides in achieving gender equality –South Africa has one of the highest proportions of female parliamentarians in the world – challenges still remain including systemic barriers that hinder women from attaining equality
Some of these obstacles include limited access to economic opportunities, gender-pay parity and discrimination in the private and public sectors, harmful cultural practices and limited access to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
This year marks the 61st anniversary of the Women’s March that took place on 9 August 1956 – a day in which almost 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to present a petition against the carrying of passes to the then Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom.
The famous freedom song: Wathint` abafazi, Strijdom! was sang following the handing over of the petition and this led to the phrase “wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo” (You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock) being adopted by many women, to represent the courage and strength of South African women. That slogan remains relevant in present day South Africa.
There is also a disturbing trend towards increased violence against women and girls particularly by men who are intimate partners and family members.
The government has made commendable efforts in addressing these challenges through the adoption and implementation of the National Development Plan and the 2030 global sustainable development goals which focus on gender parity as well as relevant policies and interventions which the UN in South Africa continues to support.