Women's month in South Africa

Posted by Martin Keat

Women’s Month in South Africa is a time to reflect on the past, being the 60th anniversary of a moment when about 20 000 women marched to the Union Building in Pretoria to protest against legislation aimed at tightening the apartheid government’s control over the movement of black women in urban areas. In the present, it is a time to celebrate women who are inspirational and have accomplished high standards for a new generation of women to meet and exceed.

Themba Interactive is our South African partner organisation which works with various communities, creating awareness and platforms for dialogue, on a range of difficult social issues such as HIV and AIDS, alcohol abuse and gender based violence. In celebration of Women’s month, we decided to put the spotlight on the women who embark on this difficult task of educating communities, by engaging in conversation with Bishop Simeon Trust staff member Jackie and our friends Sne and Abueng at Themba.

Most of us know and have heard of the challenges that women face on a daily basis whether it be in the workplace, school and even in their homes. Women’s opinions and views can be disregarded as opposed to those of men, resulting in women being resistant to invest in themselves. As such it is a matter of importance to acknowledge the hard work women do in their everyday lives, and to celebrate their strength and compassion.

Abueng Mkhonza

“As women, our biggest challenge is finding equality in all aspects. Being an independent woman, especially in relationships, can change how men look at you; your capability to do things on your own poses you as a challenge or even a threat to them. Some men like power; and not having something to hold against a woman can therefore make them feel worthless. On the other hand some men who provide for women can feel the need to control them, resulting in emotional abuse to get what they want” Abueng Mkhonza

Jackie Mukwevho

“Women are living under patriarchal societies and as a result some women depend on men to provide for their day to day needs, with no knowledge of possibilities to provide for themselves. This is mostly common in disadvantaged areas outside of the limits of a city or town. Unfortunately they do not know their rights and therefore cannot exercise them, being at a higher risk of getting infected with sexual transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. It carries on from one generation to the next, leaving young girls to continue the cycle” Jackie Mukwevho 

Sinethemba Makanya

"I really cannot say that there is a struggle unique to being a South African woman. I am a single mother to a four year old daughter. I am juggling my full time job at Themba Interactive, I’m a PhD student at Wits University and am just beginning a career in music, so balance is a difficult ideal to attain. With the recession in the country I am forced to play multiple roles in order to provide for my daughter and I get very tired. The PhD territory is rarely navigated by a black South African woman in an institution such as Wits University so proving myself to other academics proves to be a challenge. I will say that I find myself in a priviledged position as compared to most South African women. These are not South African struggles per se but universal struggles occurring within a South African context.” Sinethemba Makanya

The modern South African woman plays an increasingly important role in the lives of young girls as they look to them as role models. South African women are exposed to different surroundings and societies that can influence and affect their behaviours. By having these role models, young girls learn that they too can achieve great things without men, and that it is possible for them to live their dreams.

Although there is still a lot to be done to empower all South African women, we are in exciting times as there are phenomenal women that are recognised for their work and are having more opportunities to influence how the world views South Africa.

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A big part of our work here at the Bishop Simeon trust is committed to assuring that children and young adults in South Africa are able to challenge and conquer those obstacles in their lives that prevent them from accessing education and assuring that they can  make the most of the potential they possess to thrive and build a positive future.