The following speech was delivered by DAWN Leader, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, at the DA Women’s Day celebrations in Gelvandale, Port Elizabeth.
Women of strength and resilience,
Jy is die rots van die nasie, en die tyd om op te staan en ons stilte te verbreek, is nou!
Today, we need to take courage from the fearless women of 1956 who on this exact day, rose up and demanded equality and justice.
Their message is still clear to this day – You strike a woman, you strike a rock.
They took to the streets of Pretoria to demand a better life because they knew that for every woman to live a life of freedom, they had to break their silence and let their voices be heard.
Sadly, 63 years after their sacrifices, women today are still on their own. We continue to fight for the same equality and justice the likes of Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Frances Baard fought for back then.
As women, we are still the poorest of the poor in South Africa.
We remain at the top of the unemployment chain.
We continue to suffer as victims of horrendous acts of violence.
And worst of all, our human rights continue to be violated on daily basis.
When we wake up everyday to try and make a living for our families, society continues to drag us down and deny us of a quality of life while we are subjected to high degrees of transgressions and exploitation.
For those women who are already employed or are still seeking employment, they face the painful reality of being manipulated into giving sexual favours in return for keeping their jobs or getting a job.
Young women in schools are being forced to sleep with their teachers or lectures so that they can get better marks to pass or risk being failed should they refuse.
In Keiskammahoek, 5 teachers including the Principal were suspended for having sexual relations with school children in return for marks. One of these school kids fell pregnant as a result of this sexual abuse.
Not far from here in Komani eQueenstown, we have been talking to women who were forced to sleep with municipal officials in return for promises of getting RDP houses. As DAWN, we have taken this matter up with the Commission for Gender Equality because we believe that every woman deserves to be treated with dignity.
This is what women have been reduced to by those in power – sex objects.
These vile illegal acts continue to happen daily behind closed doors in government departments, in schools, universities, colleges and even in private companies, and the painful truth remains – women continue to suffer in silence, fearing for their lives and livelihoods. We are being turned into sexual objects and no one is protecting us.
What have we done to deserve such treatment? Where is the justice for women?
Just like the women of 1956, this government has failed the women of South Africa, and the Department of Women remains silent and useless when it comes to fighting for the protection of women.
We are now rising and breaking our silence.
We are taking our fight to the Commission for Gender Equality. We demand immediate action and justice.
If they too fail us, we will go to the South African Commission for Human Rights. They must protect us, our freedom and our rights.
Rest assured, asijiki until equality is realised and justice is ours.
We will continue marching forward because we have been failed many times. Genoeg is genoeg, violence of any kind against women must stop.
Wathint’ abafazi, whathint’ imbokodo.
Rise strong woman rise.
Break your silence and let your story be heard.