“I believe that the rights of women and girls is the unfinished business of the 21st century.”
I look at women and marvel!
Women politicians, women actresses, women sports players, women mothers, women friends. Women are an astounding, marvellous and incredible breed. How far we have come in the past one hundred years. And as I think that, so a voice inside says: Ah, but not far enough!
Women were not counted as equal to men for so long. They were not permitted to vote. In 1893 New Zealand was the first country to finally give women the vote. Then gradually the other countries began to fall in line. In 1920, the USA consented, in 1928 it was Britain’s turn. South Africa gave white women the freedom to vote in 1930. Non-whites were denied that right until 1994! In many middle eastern and third world countries females are still not given any education, never mind the vote. The fact that they are not treated on a par with men makes me wild!
At present, there are 22 female Presidents or Prime Ministers worldwide! I had no idea it was so many. At the moment, Hilary Clinton is fighting with that utter jerk, Donald Trump, to become President of the United States of America. America is the most powerful country in the western world. To have Hilary Clinton as President would make me smile. Forget about politics. My heart would rejoice for women! Maybe with a female in charge of the western world, along with Theresa May of England and Angela Merkel in Germany, pressure can be bought to bear via the UN on countries where women are still repressed.
August was Women’s Month in South Africa.
Why isn’t there a Man’s Month, I pondered? I investigated and what I discovered made me marvel at the women of 1956. This is the reason there is a Women’s Day on the 9th August in South Africa. This is why we have a Women’s Month.
“Strijdom, you have tampered with the women, You have struck a rock!”
So runs the song composed to mark this historic occasion.
During apartheid, the pass laws were a form of internal passport system. They were designed to segregate the population, manage urbanisation, and allocate migrant labour. I have a vivid memory of Letty, who worked for us, patting her pockets at the end of our driveway and then retracing her way back inside. “I forgot my pass,” she explained.
Non-Whites didn’t go anywhere without their pass.
In one of the largest demonstrations staged in South Africa’s history, 20,000 women of all races marched to Pretoria’s Union Buildings on 9 August 1956. They presented a petition against the carrying of passes by non-white women. I so admire the chutzpah of those women who said: ‘No, we do not accept the way things are!’
That Women’s March showed that the stereotype of women as politically inept and immature, tied to the home, was outdated and inaccurate.
In 1994 with the coming of democracy, those despicable, degrading pieces of paper were done away with. I wanted to give Letty one of my massive child hugs of so long ago and say: “There’s no need to go back and get your forgotten pass now, Letty! You never need to worry about that again.”
I wanted to sing: Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika! with my arms tightly around her. But, alas, just as my childhood has disappeared, so too has Letty.
Thuli Madonsela has become one of the most respected woman in South Africa.
She was appointed the Public Protector by President Jacob Zuma in 2009. He said to her: “You will need to ensure that this office continues to be accessible to ordinary citizens and undertakes its work without fear or favour.”
She certainly did that! She took his words to heart and it was Jacob Zuma that fell beneath her hammer. He stole R246 million from the taxpayers to build Nkandla, and she would not rest until he had rectified the situation. Her political party, the ANC, turned against her but she stood firm. Eventually Zuma paid back a portion of the money. She is now investigating Zuma’s impropriety and unethical conduct with members of the Gupta family. Her political term ends on the 19th October and she is determined to have this enquiry wrapped up before that date.
Mother Teresa was the founder of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic congregation of women dedicated to helping the poor. In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her work “in bringing help to suffering humanity.”
Considered one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century, she was canonised as Saint Teresa of Calcutta earlier this month, a day before the 19th anniversary of her death. I believe this must be the fastest anyone has become a Saint!
And she was a woman!
On the one hand, we have female Presidents and Prime Ministers, and in other parts of the world, we have women whose voices are drowned out by men. They are muffled and deadened by the burka many of them are forced to wear! Why are men so frightened of meeting women as equals? I want to shout at the women: ‘Why do you accept this?’
But I have no knowledge of the dogmatic rules and regulations to which they are subjected. I have read of women in Middle Eastern countries who were lashed one hundred times because they had affairs. Yet men are allowed four wives and fidelity is not a pre-requisite. Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl in Pakistan, was shot three times by a terrorist, because she was demanding equal education for all.
In July 2014, she spoke at the headquarters of the United Nations to call for worldwide access to education. She is a speaker for Women’s rights as well as Children’s rights. She received the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, for her struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education. Aged 17, Yousafzai became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate.
I am utterly humbled by women such as her.
The determination and single mindedness of the 1956 Women Marchers.
Women Presidents and Prime Ministers.
Thula Madonsela’s work ‘without fear or favour.’
Mother Teresa’s devotion to the poor and starving of Calcutta.
Malala’s fight for education for all.
Women are able to meet men on basically every level except for strength. And with a laugh, I say that women are able to do something that men fail at completely – multitask! A woman can fix the car, make dinner, comfort her child, clean the house, do the garden, find everything that is ‘lost’ and perhaps be President! I’m not sure if Hilary Clinton does all this but she is able to.
After all, she’s a woman!