The President addresses a troubled nation on Women’s Day on the “scourge of gender-
By Seth Meyer
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 8 of VARSITY News.
9 August 2020 marked Woman’s Day in the Republic of South Africa, a day that saw both the much-expected celebration and recognition of women all over the country, but was also a day overshadowed by the sombre issues that South African women face in our society. In the wake of the release of the national crime statistics for 2019/2020, the demoralising increase in the reported incidents of sexual offences, rape and sexual assault left many South Africans rightfully angry and calling for a response to the scourge of gender-based violence (GBV ) and related issues that have disproportionately affected the country, especially the women who live in it. President Cyril Ramaphosa took his familiar place behind the podium to deliver a lengthy keynote address to South Africans on August 9th, as part of a government-organised Women’s Day event, which was livestreamed by SABC News.
The President began his address lauding the women of South Africa as “the inheritors of the noble legacy of the women of 1956”, comparing the two generations’ unified fight to “live in freedom”. Ramaphosa continued, stating that, “As a country, we have made much progress that we can be proud of. We have made gains in advancing women’s rights, in broadening women’s access to education, in the provision of health care and social support to women and in improving their participation in the economy and in decision-making”. The President went on to acknowledge the reality that many women in South Africa still face, as being “very different to the promise that is contained in our Constitution”, citing factors of poverty, unemployment, constant discrimination and violence.
Ramaphosa touted South Africa’s commitment to the international campaign, Generation Equality, with the aim of achieving gender equality by 2030 and briefly detailed the two “action coalitions” that South Africa is a part of in this campaign.
The President further stated, “as we mark Womens’ Day this year, South Africa is in the grip of two pandemics; the coronavirus pandemic and the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide,” noting the increasing abuse and murder of women and children at the hands of men.
“It cannot be that this Womens’ Day is drenched in the tears of families who have lost their sisters, their daughters and mothers, to violence that has been perpetuated by South African men … We can no longer as a nation, ignore the deafening cries of women and children”. Ramaphosa went on to remind citizens of Parliament’s “Emergency Response Action Plan” in response to GBV and femicide, citing the steps and progress being made in response to the issue, subsequently noting a “national strategic plan, which, among other things, aims to promote women’s economic inclusion.”
Ramaphosa’s speech went on to detail further plans and actions, and in his conclusion, before wishing the women of South Africa a happy Women’s Day and the very best, stated, “The time for talk is over. This is now the time for action.”
The Women’s Day event and President’s address can be viewed here: