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Economic Empowerment
11 August 2011, 12:09 PM

This year marks the 55 anniversary of the women’s march to Pretoria. Dr Pearl Sithole, an independent researcher, views such commemorations as useful only if they inspire women today to confront their own challenges in the manner that women of 1956 confronted the challenges of the day. Sithole cautions against focusing too much on previous struggles to better face current challenges. According to Lebohang Pheko, an economist at Genta – Gender and Trade Network in Africa – the fact that the majority of women in South Africa find themselves in informal sectors of the economy is as a direct result of apartheid. Over a period, it created a cycle underdeveloped women.

The Department of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities (DWCPD) has since 2009 been tasked with implementing, promoting and advancing gender equality as well as empowering women. The economic empowerment of women still leaves much to be desired. In a statement the Minister for Women, Children and people with disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, said economic empowerment would be a key focus for Women’s month this year. The theme identified by government is “Working together to enhance women opportunities to economic empowerment”. Chief economist at the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), Lumkile Mondi attributeswomen’s lack of participation in the mainstream economy to a number of reasons. One of them being the historical – where women were denied access to all forms of empowerment tools such as education and funding. The other is along ‘cultural’ and patriarchallines where men still view women as ‘naturally’ inferior to them thus refusing to acknowledge them as equals.

Masculine projects Mondi says this is more common in developing societies as compared to those that are developed Scandinavian countries where women are encouraged to take leadership roles in all spheres of social life including politically and economically. Professor Pumla Gqola, from the Wits School of Literature and Language Studies, adds that Women’s Day has a place in contemporary socio-political discourse because it reminds South Africa of the pivotal role played by women, of all classes and their contribution in the fight for democracy. She views nationalism as a masculinist project that makes male heroism visible at the expense of women’s activism. It is a perpetuation of a historical lie to reduce women’s roles in the struggle for democracy as merely supplementary – supportive, passive, sexual and behind the scenes, she added. According to the Stats South Africa 2011 population estimates, the country’s population is approximately 50.59 million, of whichapproximately 52% are female. Life expectancy at birth for women is at 59.1% and 54.9% for men. Eight out of ten women workers are considered to be in vulnerable employment in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Statistics about women African women across the continent are responsible for: -70% of food crop production -50% of animal husbandry -60% of marketing -100% of food processing (cooking), in addition to child care and other household responsibilities

Chabaku says women in South Africa have got the power to do great things but they have not been given the opportunity to express their power. She says women in South Africa are stifled because the society is male-dominated – even in the vocabulary.

*sources: SABC research*

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Now and Then
11 August 2011, 11:58 AM

Women bear a disproportionate burden of the world’s poverty, according to a report by United Nations Women. It indicates that women are most likely to be poorer and prone to hunger as a result of systematic and institutionalised discrimination they face in accessing education, health, and employment. As we commemorate the national Women’s Day on August 9, Khensane Maranele speaks to the 1956 generation and compares the note with today’s 21st century woman. Reverend Motlalepula Chabaku was one of the organisers who canvassed the thousands of women in the historical march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria on August 9, 1956. Around 20 000 women protested against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act (commonly known as the pass laws of 1950). The women left scores of petitions containing more than 100 000 signatures at the then Prime Minister J.G Strijdom’s office doors. Chabaku says South Africa has come far from the class of 56’ and a long way in terms of empowering women – more than the first world countries like Britain, France or Germany. Comparing the present day woman to the woman of 1956, she says South Africa has done a lot to empower women. “We have far more progressive laws in our country. Women are in positions of leadership. But, even though much has been done, there is still more to be done.”

We have far more progressive laws in our country. Women are in positions of leadership. But, even though much has been done, there is still more to be done


“We have campaigned for 50/50, but businesses and other economic activities are hesitant to apply the 50/50 basis in employment, promotion and leadership women. So, we cannot blame women for lagging behind.”

The cleric says the women of 56′ had power. They were innovators who helped families to survive under the harsh apartheid laws. “They were the ones who started building homes in the rural areas – not the men. It is the women who used cow dung to do weaving to make the courtyard more presentable.”

Siphokazi Motaung is a sister who is ‘doing it for herself’ – a beautician who owns a beauty parlour based in Newtown, downtown Johannesburg. Her trade includes eye-lashes, facials and acrylic nails amongst other things. She says women should empower themselves and not wait for government programmes to push them. “The government cannot give you everything, go out there and do it for yourself.” Motaung says working on a fixed-term contract and being unsure of her income made her put her dream in action. “Seeing as you never guaranteed if your contract will be renewed – I took my talent and ran with it.”

– By Khensane Maranele

In the name of Freedom
11 August 2011, 11:50 AM

In 1956 on August 9, over 20 000 women from all over South Africa, crossing the racial divide, marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act of 1950 which would require them to carry an identity pass. Tanja Bencun takes a closer look into this historic day 55 years ago to better understand how a united voice stood up for freedom and what it means for women of today. Women were not included in the Pass Law passed in 1923, which required black men to carry a pass when going into the city. Under the banner of the Federation of South African Women, a march was organised that challenged the idea that ‘a women’s place is in the kitchen’, declaring it instead to be everywhere’. Led by Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophia Williams and Rahima Moosa, the women marched.

Although the Prime Minister at the time, JG Strijdom, was not at the Union Buildings to accept the petitions, the women sent out a public message that they would not be intimidated and silenced by unjust laws. After the petitions, which were signed by more than 100 000 women, were handed over to the Secretary of the Prime Minister, the women sang a Zulu freedom song: Wathint` abafazi, Strijdom!

The petition described how the pass laws had brought “untold suffering to every African family”. Unfortunately the march and petitions did not change the mind of the apartheid government and black women were finally forced to also carry the passes in 1958. Something they had to do until the law was repealed in 1986. Heroic failure

A Wits historian, Clive Glaser, says this march is a heroic story, but of failed resistance. “Heroic in its achievement in mobilisation, but, in fact, it’s at the point where the State is becoming increasingly powerful and confident in repressing resistance…and really all the glorious resistance in the 50s leads nowhere – politically.”

He says that the march was significant in that you had this mass gathering and coming together of women, but it was an unsuccessful protest as the pass law was extended to include women in 1958. As for the 60s, this was a time of political quiet. There was massive State clampdown, political movements and trade unions were banned. It was also during this time that there was an economic boom, and although wages were low, there was virtually full employment. This could explain why there was no political change in this era and as Glaser notes, the reason for “lowered levels of anger”. In the 70s Glaser says the economy started to decline. “The systems of townships deteriorated, becoming much more oppressive, and you also had the rise of black consciousness…the younger generation of the 1970s was angry with their parents for being so passive.” Therefore a combination of hard living conditions and new ideas started to circulate.

Heroic in its achievement in mobilisation, but, in fact, it’s at the point where the State is becoming increasingly powerful and confident in repressing resistance…and really all the glorious resistance in the 50s leads nowhere – politically

History celebrated August 9 has come to represent a celebration of women where we come together further advance women’s struggle for empowerment and full equality and to this day this march in 1956 remains the biggest gathering of women held in South Africa. Even though passes, or dompas (stupid pass) as they were commonly referred to, are a thing of the past – it is important to remember and salute those who had their part to play in its eventual demise. So each year on August 9, in the memory of the 1956 mass anti-pass demonstration, we honour our women and the history of women’s resistance in South Africa. Wathint` abafazi, Strijdom!
Wathint` imbokodo uzo kufa!
Now you have touched the women, Strijdom!
You have struck a rock! (you have dislodged a boulder)
You will be crushed!

– By Tanja Bencun

Albertina Sisulu: ‘mother of the nation’
11 August 2011, 10:44 AM

News of the death of African National Congress (ANC) struggle stalwart, mother of defence minister, Lindiwe Sisulu, and the wife of the late ANC leader, Walter Sisulu, was confirmed by Beryl Simelane, one of Sisulu’s adopted daughters. Albertina Sisulu died at her Linden home in Johannesburg on Tuesday night, June 2, 2011. She was 92-years-old. Albertina was the widow of late ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu. She was widely regarded as the “mother of the nation”, and was often described as “a symbol of courage, fortitude and calm endurance.’ Sisulu endured terrible suffering and torment at the hands of the apartheid state yet remained resilient and determined: ” … Although politics has given me a rough life, there is absolutely nothing I regret about what I have done and what has happened to me and my family throughout all these years. Instead, I have been strengthened and feel more of a woman than I would otherwise have felt if my life was different.”

She leaves 23 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren

Albertina was the mother of five children, including Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Lindiwe Sisulu, speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu and businessman Zwelakhe Sisulu. She and Walter also had four adopted children. She leaves 23 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Albertina Sisulu continued to play an active role inthe country. In 2003 the Albertina Sisulu Multi-purpose Resource Centre was launched in Soweto. The Walter Sisulu Paediatric Cardiac Centre in Sunninghill Hospital was closest to her heart. She was keen for people to come out about their HIV status and Aids education was vital, she said. She had lost family members to the virus. Her funeral will take place on June 11, 2011at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto. President Jacob Zuma announced earlier that she would receive a special category 1 state funeral with military honours. Such funerals are usually reserved for the head of state and ministers.

Albertina Sisulu Memorial Tribute Part 01

Albertina Sisulu Memorial Tribute Part 02

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Tech Wrap, 5 June 2015
22 June 0515, 8:20 AM

This week we look at:

Uber and YouTube celebrate their birthdays, Asus launches a Selfie phone and 3D printer continue to make big strides in the health industry. Click below to watch this week’s Tech Wrap.

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