TOMORROW we celebrate Women’s Day, marking exactly 57 years since 20 000 South African women marched against laws that required black people to carry a special identification document known as the “pass”.
That ridiculous document curtailed the movement of non-white South Africans during the apartheid era.
Thanks to the efforts of women, our country kissed bye to a segregatory and oppressive era that for 350 years had dehumanised some citizens on the basis of their darker pigmentation.
Through their power, we are now living in a democracy where people of all races and colour are equal before the laws of the land.
Women in South Africa — and men too — are better off now compared to the past.
We now have women occupying the space that was traditionally dominated by men.
Women now have better access to more opportunities in society and in the workplace.
Women are assuming decision-making positions in different sectors such as mining, farming and engineering.
But we cannot generalise the situation of women in South Africa today.
As much as we have every reason to commemorate Women’s Day, or month, we are afraid it’s a little discomforting for South Africa to be celebrating when the majority of the people are not in control of their stomachs and health.
The ordinary woman is at the receiving end of all that is bad in our country.
We cannot be proud that our country boasts the most rapes per capita of anywhere in the world, with 3 600 rapes committed in South Africa every day, according to one survey.
It is terrifying to imagine that 40 percent of South African women will be raped at some point in their life.
And girl children are believed to be the victims of 41 percent of the rapes in the country.
Worse still, many more sexual offences go unreported because a large number feel insecure about reporting rape or even sexual harassment, either because they are not taken seriously or because in several cases the protectors have turned perpetrators.
We must be ashamed as a nation that our baby girls have to be born into a sisterhood condemned to fear of horrific sexual assault.
Then we also have our women bearing the brunt of unemployment and crime that keep worsening.
HIV and Aids continues to ravage mostly women and the poor.
Today around nine million blacks still live in shacks without proper sanitation in poor crime-ridden townships or informal settlements.
Their schools and hospitals, if they have any, are often in pathetic conditions.
Service delivery in most municipalities leaves a lot to be desired.
This is not what those 20 000 brave women marched for on August 9 1956.
They wanted the freedom of movement and much more.
The freedom that women and all long-suffering South Africans deserve must be rooted in socio-economic development highlighted by a good standard of living for the people, proper education and accessible healthcare.
Without economic freedom, movement and political freedom means little.
Let’s remember this as we continue celebrating womanhood not just this month but every day of our life.