Sometimes we hear the same thing in different words. Sometimes they are a string of all the right words for the right occasion. And then sometimes we allow ourselves to believe these words. Until we realise that we are still in the same place. Where exactly is this place? For women, this place is relegated to a day, perhaps a month when were given a nod with vague murmurings of courage, beauty and strength.
It’s the 9th August and these questions sit a little uncomfortably with some of us. So what exactly is this women’s month about?
Sixty years ago, on the 9th of August women decided that they had had enough. Showing up, showing agency, showing anger… they took to the streets in protest. Today we are still protesting. In little pockets….5 young women in at a prominent gathering with simple placards. “The fact that you’re not seeing it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening. It’s been happening daily”. (One in Nine Campaign)
Why then, is it necessary and what should we protest? We protest that 1 in 3 women are raped; we protest that women still earn an unequal salary in many workplaces; we protest that even with our progressive Constitution, we cannot safely walk in the streets or make decisions in some of our homes, or that those who violate us still get off ‘scott free’. Well, of course, the list is lengthy.
This is not a time to rave about the resilience of women. Rather let us consider why there is a need for this resilience? We are dreamers, original thinkers, we fail and succeed, we do battle, create, take charge, make, connect. We are fully human. We object to that which attempts to separate us from our dreams and wholeness. Dreams are about more than just a day or a month. Dreams are about possibility where women can gain equal access to a study grant, where young girls who have fallen pregnant at school can get the support they deserve and rape victims are listened to. A world where these dreams are realised has to also be one which enlightens men about their power and privilege. If that blindfold of power is taken off, maybe we can then see who we really are. Men also need to embrace their wholeness. Hlonipa, respect, respek can be gained through an acknowledgement of the potential of men and women, different but whole.
We rage and its ok. We protest and that’s ok. We do this because some women are not treated as equal citizens. When a woman says, ”my husband tried to beat me” or “I want to learn to read at age 42” or that “I can’t feed my family and my husband has run away”… we realise that there are still so many social ills that still place women at the receiving end.
One day is not enough to develop a consciousness that goes beyond semantics. Let us be rather then be uncomfortable. Let’s not give in to the seduction that all is alright, even for one day. Let us be challenging just as the women were so long ago (and are) albeit it in the face of adversity, to assist each other to hold onto our dreams and to be fully actualised.
There are still many questions. Let us continue to ask them. Perhaps then we could consider a shift.
By Pralini Naidoo, Coral Bijoux