Speech by Honourable by Raseriti Tau during the debate on the Women`s day

17 August 2010

Honourable Chairperson

Honourable Minister
Special delegates from provinces, and yes of course it is true, like it is said. The theme is directing us to a particular point in understanding exactly what is it that we need to do.

"Working together for equal opportunities and progress for all women." But perhaps the question that we need to ask ourselves which is very fundamental is. To what extent are we or can we be in the position to work together for equal opportunities and progress for women without a proper understanding of the challenges that women have been confronted with in our country?

For instance, it is easy to talk about an open society and equal opportunities, and simplistically think or assume that once you declare that there is an open or equal opportunities that women will be free and will be equal to men. Therefore, it is important for all of us to understand, including our colleagues from the DA. That once we talk of that equal opportunities, we also need to appreciate the historical oppression that women were faced with. That particular historical oppression was characterised as triple oppression.

Firstly, women were oppressed because of their sexual orientation. Secondly, they were oppressed because they were black and thirdly, they were oppressed because of the class orientation or characterisation of the economy that we are faced with. To what an extent, can we then begin to talk about equal opportunities for women now, if we do not address all those three things?

The first question that is fundamental to me concerning the triple oppression. Have the male attitude changed towards females? How do we see women today? Do we see women as equals to men regarding their capacity and ability to do certain things in our society?

With regard to race terms, to what extent have African women in particular being able to be positioned in society to play the strategic role that they are supposed to play? In class terms, where do we place women within the realm of our economy? How do we ensure that we locate their role, in such a way that they are playing a very significant and constructive role in growing the economy of our country? Therefore, it is important that we also caution our comrades or our colleagues from the DA, that they cannot speak of opportunities in class terms when in actual fact their liberal policies are walking against the very same objectives of creating an equal opportunity.

If one has to reflect as a result of the very same liberal or neoliberal policies, economic policies that we have or that are being espoused aggressively by the DA. Let us not forget, it is these policies that led to a situation where in which our country`s economy was opened up, the liberalisation of the South African economy where the import barriers, the restrictions were lowered or even removed. As a result the South African economy was then undermined by the external economies. What was the result of that?

It resulted in key industrial sectors in our economy suffering greatly, such as your textile industries. Who are the people, who were most affected in the textile industry with the closing of factories and so forth? It is women. Therefore, it will be quite disingenuous and dishonest to begin to speak about equal opportunities, whilst in your policy framework you vigorously and aggressively advanced policies that would undermine the very same progression of women in the economy as a whole.

It is within that understanding, that it is important that all of us must begin to appreciate the struggles and challenges those women are faced with. Equally so, as the prince have said and it is for the first time that I speak after him and I agree with him. The history of the struggle of women and how women have progressively played a strategic and important role in our liberation, it has not necessarily started in the 30s or 40s but way before that.

Let us look at the Anglo Boer War and the role of the women in it. How our African women in particular were used, to support the two imperialist factions that were fighting for our own economy, land and resources? But our own African women were used to feed these soldiers that were fighting against each other.

What happened immediately after the Anglo Boer War? They were again subjected to the very same conditions that they found themselves in at the end of the day, hence their conscientisation and their capacity to rise, made them to mobilise and organise themselves to a point where they were able to rise against the declaration of the 1910 Union of South Africa.

It is through that process that we could see the mobilisation of women, and the progression of women in fighting against the injustice system at that particular stage. In the 30s and 40s, there were many instances of mass protest, demonstration and passive resistance campaigns which women participated in. Of course, we can also make a reflection on the first and the Second World War, when the imperialist on our land, fighting for the land, resources, for the little that we had and how women again were used. Women were used to feed the imperialist again; firstly, to feed them, to look after them, to look after their kids and even for medical supplies.

Some of the African women it is recorded today that in the Anglo Boer War, they were used as spies across for the benefit of these imperialist. That is the extent to which women have played the very important role. Fortunately, for some of the women who were more intelligent than the imperialist, they fed them wrong information across each other.

The main movement through which women expressed their growing political awareness in the 30s, 40s and the 50s was greatly influenced by the CPSA then and the ANC. We would remember comrades that with the gradual transition of the South African economy, from the predominant mining and the agricultural economy to a flourishing industrialisation within our economy to secondary industries. Women played a very strategic and important role.

Black trade unions grew rapidly, influenced by the growing numbers of urban workers they were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo and the number of major strikes and boycotts were held in the 40s, notably the strike of African Mineworkers. Women were not slow to play their part in this climate of unrest. Within the trade union movement the names of militant workers, women in particular such as Frances Baard whom today - I do not know how many members of this august House have seen her statue in the centre of Kimberly in the Northern Cape, where Kimberly as a province honoured Frances Baard who hails from there. You must go to Kimberly to see the big statue there of the fellow revolutionary, Frances Baard. These are some of the women like Lilian Ngoyi and Bertha Mashaba who played that particular important role.

In Cape Town, Food Committees were formed that had links with the trade unions and the CPSA and demonstrated in Parliament against the inadequate food supplies. In Johannesburg women formed the People`s Food Council in 1943 in an effort to improve. The 1956 march was a culmination of a process that began way long before and led by women in South Africa. We know of the roles played by Fedsaw, Federation of South African Woman and so forth.

In conclusion, may I therefore put a challenge to all the Members of Parliament to say that we should not only fight for equal opportunities concerning this thing? But, we must fight or develop a campaign that is aggressively biased towards women. It should not be about equal opportunities, but it should be about biasness towards the upliftment of women.

I thank you!