The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) says Covid-19 has reversed the limited progress women have made in the fight for gender equality and women’s rights.
The league was honouring South Africa’s founding president, Nelson Mandela, and those who died of Covid-19 with a virtual prayer service on Sunday – just a day after the world marked Mandela Day and as the coronavirus outbreak continued to soar in the country.
Figures released on Saturday indicated that there were almost 351,000 positive cases in the country and 4,948 fatalities.
Mandela, a struggle icon who dedicated 67 years of his life to the struggle for freedom, would have turned 102 on Saturday. Every year on his birthday, people are urged to be of service to those around them for at least 67 minutes.
“We have seen that Covid-19 has reversed the limited progress we have made as women in the fight for gender equality and women’s rights,” said ANCWL president Bathabile Dlamini.
She also praised United Nations (UN) secretary-general António Guterres’ lecture in honour of the former statesman, fondly called by his clan name “Madiba”, for being honest about the world’s failures in addressing inequality challenges.
Dlamini called on women, along with female leaders, to be at the centre of recovery efforts, vowing not to turn back and to “push back” against having women sidelined.
She added that the pandemic, which ravaged economies and health systems across the globe, exposed South Africa for its weaknesses when it comes to manufacturing.
We must be at the centre of recovery
“In our path to recovery, we must be at the centre, both emotional and psychological, as well as economic recovery,” Dlamini told hundreds of people who had logged on to participate in the prayer service.
She said South Africa needed to change its patterns of poverty and the gap between the rich and poor, which had increased with the crisis.
“The infrastructure fund must be distributed to close the gap between the rich and the poor and it must bring about effective and qualitative change,” said Dlamini.
The project was said to have potential investments of more R700 billion over the next 10 years.
Dlamini said throughout the outbreak, women struggled the most, with challenges in accessing water, food security, loans, education, the gender pay gap, as well as poor health and social services
While she noted that the government was making an effort, she emphasised that South African women were fighting against “huge waves” and a “storm”.
Bias against strong women
She also called against decisions made with the view of dispensing patronage with a bias against strong women.
In a bid to dismiss claims that the ANCWL was targeting some of its comrades in the government, Dlamini said the issues it took up, which include cigarettes, alcohol and education, were taken up because it had been mandated to do so.
“We must try [to] ensure the pandemic doesn’t shadow the challenges facing young women, who are killed every day, women who are abused on a daily basis … we must get proper statistics.”
She called for Covid-19 centres to be equipped with areas that focused on gender-based violence (GBV), as well as the training of the country’s leaders to engage with men and boys for an inclusive anti-GBV campaign.
Dlamini added that the ANCWL would launch command centres that operate via social media groups to offer support to victims and ensure incidents of violence were reported and attended to properly.