Written by: Sinothando Ndelu
International Women’s day is an insistent call for gender equality. “I am Generation Equal; Realising Womens Right.”- is the theme. This campaign is making an individual call for a collective good- Each For Equal. The assertion being individual actions, conversations, behaviours and mind-sets can have an impact on the broader society. On this 10th year anniversary of the establishment of United Nations Women, the stagnation of change towards the “realisation of women’s rights’ has been worrying. The safety of women at home and in public spaces, women still work more and earn less compared to their male counterparts doing the same work, women are continuously stripped of their bodily autonomy and right to choose- to name a few.
Women experience multiple forms of violence at home and in public space. This violence makes legions of women feel pliable because their rights to safety and justice are not upheld. The rate of intimate partner violence and sexual crimes versus convictions in South Africa is dismal. The lack of convictions and public lynching of women who report and are vocal about their experience leads to under reporting. Governments can claim decrease in statistics of violence while missing the effects of systematics violations of women who report and the fear of reporting and still being confronted by ones attacker. The United Nations Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security has no founds expression. South African women do not feel safe.
Women’s bodily autonomy is constantly challenged and their rights to choose for themselves unprotected. Two weeks ago the Commission for Gender Equality launched a report on Forced Sterilisation Women Living with HIV. Women were recounting how they had their wombs removed, forces abortions, and forced long terms contraception. Mind-sets that exist in the system that infantilises women and reduces their ability to make decisions, leaving them without choice. In the same breath, are young women being turned away when seeking out contraceptives to avoid unwanted and unsupportable pregnancies. When these women do get pregnant they are forced to carry to term by forbidding them abortions that are both legal and provided for by the state.
Health has been commodified. Access to health is the very expensive. World over it is found that women are paid less and therefore cannot afford to procure private health services. Public health comes with obstruction to care and staff that discount health seeking behaviours. Woman who seek abortion end up falling prey to drug dealers and rapists who masquerade as abortion providers. There is not one known case of conviction of these people who endanger women even though they openly advertise.
There is a generational turning point that has been reached that is causing a great amount of agitation- devaluing women is no longer valuable. Each for equal says each and every one of us has to look at the next person as an equal. It is a call for institutions and governments to create environments for women to not be endangers for requiring basic human rights. It is a drive for employers to pay women deservedly so that they may experience self-sustenance. It is an insistence on conversations that drastically shift behaviors that strip women of their dignity. Each for equal demands that justice prevail so that the next generation of women can see the reality of equality. Woman demand a drastic shift in their position in the world.
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