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Memorandum from Progressive Women of South Africa to the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr. T.M Mbeki

Memorandum from Progressive Women of South Africa to the President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr. T.M Mbeki

9 August 2006

We the women of South Africa from different sectors, some progressive political organisation, trade union movement, civic organisations, religious bodies, business, professional organisations, NGOs, CBOs, representatives from different spheres of government, the young, women with disabilities, elderly women and women veterans of the struggle gathered in Mangaung Free State Province, from 05 to 08 August 2006, to launch a Progressive Women's Movement of South Africa mandated the leadership of the Steering Committee nominated to handover this memorandum to our President, Mr. Thabo Mbeki. We are honoured to share this historic gathering with women from Angola, India, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

We salute the pioneers that paved the way for us, we remember the gallant heroines and heroes who rose against colonialism, those who protested the pass laws, those who took united action against unjust labour laws, those women who under severe conditions of poverty, oppression and exploitation, created homes, educated and developed and produced leaders of yester year and today.

In recalling the history of South Africa and the triple fold struggle characterized by class, race and gender oppression saluted the struggles, which led us to democracy and paid tribute to our democratically elected government and gave recognition to the quantitative and qualitative achievements of our Democracy.

We acknowledge the Democratic state for providing the space, which ensures the deepening of the struggles for women's emancipation, by ensuring:

  • Access to decision making levels especially the political and the judicially.
  • Access to resources like clean water, sanitation and electricity.
  • Access to education and health.
  • Creation of an environment for the empowerment of women through a progressive constitution and the enactment of gender sensitive legislation as well as engendered policies.
  • Establishment of programmes, laws and the development institutionalised national machinery.

We take cognizance of the fact that these advances improved the quality of life and status of women and laid the foundation for the changing of power relations between men and women through the Constitution adopted 10 years ago.

We note that Democracy provided the voices of women and space to be heard on matters of concern to their lives, their wellbeing and that of society.

We recognised that there are qualitative changes in our lives particularly the attitudinal changes in the value structures within families and society.

We recognize that there are major challenges that women still face as women due to non-institutionalisation and legislation of mechanisms and processes that ensure parity in society.

We note that the patriarchal system is the ideology, beliefs, values and practices underpinning the organisation and structure of society, resulting in unequal power relations between men and women and the subordination of women in all spheres of life from the private sphere, mainly the family. Patriarchy is spread throughout and continuously reinforced by the whole society, including through education, work, religion and the media, so much so, that it is assumed as natural, God given or part of our culture.

We call on the democratic state and its institutions to take note and urgently prioritise the resolution of the following problems:

  1. The continual brutalisation of women in our society by a patriarchal system that is re-enforced by regressive elements of our culture and customs.
  2. The feminisation of poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment.
  3. Poverty since those worst affected by poverty are women particularly the unemployed, the ones living in informal settlements, the rural and farm areas and the working class women.
  4. That whilst our economy grows at an impressive rate, women are relegated to the entry level and remain in the main informal economic sphere. Those women in general do not own the means of production and remain at the lowest rung in the job industry.
  5. Lack of access to land, security tenure and continuous eviction have a negative impact on their well being and those of their families.
  6. That many women particularly working class, rural, farm and poor women have not yet tasted the fruits of our liberation. Many of them have not yet accessed basic services such as sanitation, clean water, land, electricity, basic literacy, social security etc.
  7. Lack of access to debt with most households blacklisted and thus denying access to facilities such as home loans and ownership and higher education, which are dependent on loans.
  8. Casualisation of women workers and the exploitation of the thousands of others in sweatshops have a devastating impact on the lives of millions of South Africans, particularly working women.
  9. None recognition of women's work in GNP.
  10. The siege against women because of rampant violence against them particularly domestic violence and violence against children particularly the girl child abuse.
  11. That, whilst gender sensitive laws and engendered laws including customary laws were passed, women still face huge obstacles to emancipation and the realization of their full human rights.
  12. Women affected and infected by HIV and AIDS and other chronical diseases need support.

We further call on government to support the programme of action in the following areas:

  • Implementation of all the international convention commitments and platform of action including CEDAW, Beijing platform of action, MDG's and many others.
  • Development of programmes and strategies to analyse and address patriarchy and its different forms and ensure that all government policies, programmes and processes are engendered.
  • Development and social upliftment in areas such as education, skills acquisitions, poverty alleviation and access to financial assistance.
  • Strengthening and implementing multifaceted programmes and strategies to fight crime especially domestic violence, rape and all forms of violence against women and children, especially girl children including human trafficking.
  • Facilitating access to information through amongst others the translation of all government documents into all languages including brail.
  • Government to convey our message of support to Cuba and our commitment to the lifting of the blockade, the release of the five Cubans incarcerated in the US prisons and the speedy recovery of Fidel Castro Ruz and a message of solidarity and support to the women of Cuba.

We support government in its consistent efforts in peace building in the world in particular countries in Africa and the Middle East.

The Age of Hope is upon us and we must deliver to make the tomorrow of women a better and brighter one.

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