South African society consists of a variety of building blocks, including family, industry, commerce, churches and politics. Women are present, and have a positive role to play in each of these building blocks. They are also subject to at least the same demands, pressures and threats as their male counterparts. However, the position of women is weaker than that of men as their lives are subject to additional demands, challenges and difficulties.
The IFP is committed to ensuring that South African women achieve a position of substantial parity with their male counterparts in each of society’s building blocks.
Diversity of circumstances
The IFP recognises the profound diversity of circumstances of South African women which stems from their different cultural backgrounds, heritage, upbringing and economic standing. Rather than levelling these differences down to uniformity, the IFP believes that specific problems and circumstances ought to be addressed through the approach which is most effective, to ensure that all of South Africa’s women are given equal opportunities. Any policy relating to women should be multi-faceted and diversified.
However, the IFP also realise that there are universal issues which affect every woman in our society due to the persistent inequality of women in the home, workplace and in society, and in particular, the discrimination still widely experienced when women attempt to enter previously male dominated territory. The IFP is constantly seeking viable and sustainable solutions to these problems and believes that a change in the present attitude is essential to the implementation of solutions.
A women’s identity
The IFP is committed to protecting the importance of the family – therein recognising the vital role played by women – as an essential cornerstone of society. However, the IFP also recognises that the evolution of society has transformed the family experience, and nowadays not all stages of a person’s life are conducted within a family context. Often women spend extensive periods of their lives not as family members, but as unattached individuals. Therefore, it is essential that women acquire a perception of their identity as individuals. This can assist them during the stages of their lives in which they do not operate as members of a family, and can strengthen the quality of their contribution as they enter or remain in a community structure.
Women constitute approximately 61% of people with no education. This is one of the reasons why African women experience the highest rate of unemployment in South Africa. The IFP is aware of the dire need to advance the position of women in general and of rural women in particular. To facilitate education and training amongst women, the IFP advocates special recruitment efforts and training programs by all prospective employers. Employer organisations receiving either government grants or tenders should be encouraged to establish operating agencies in rural areas which expedite the training, advising, assistance, counselling and support of women who seek to enter the workforce.
Women in the workplace
There is a marked increase in the number of women who are entering the business world. The IFP believes that women must be afforded every opportunity toward success by ensuring that they have equal access to resources and facilities. Financial services as well as business training must be made available. There must be no raising of criteria or conditions of qualification for loans on the grounds of gender.
For the purposes of residence or business, women must be afforded equal rights and accessibility toward acquiring, owning or leasing property. Customary law, common law, criminal law, commercial law and contract law should consider the interests of men and women equally, without prejudice on the basis of gender.
In terms of the constitution, women may demand equal pay for the same work done by men, and should not accept harassment or bigotry in the workplace.
Women’s role in transformation
The IFP recognises that women have a very important role to fulfil in the transformation of South Africa toward social stability and economic prosperity. In a democracy, the participation of every individual is equally important and the IFP believes that success requires that women take up their position as contributors at all levels of decision making. The present government’s centralist policies do not allow for the full participation of all South Africans and results in large segments of our communities being bulldozed into accepting policies which are unsuited to their unique needs. The IFP wishes to rectify this situation through the devolution of powers to the lowest levels possible.
The IFP has a deep concern over the issue of abuse of women. The IFP are committed to addressing the degradations and humiliations to which women constantly find themselves exposed. The crimes of rape, physical, verbal and emotional abuse and harassment are rampant in our country and must be stopped.
With regard to the issue of violence and sexual abuse within the home, many women perhaps feel that there is little they can do because the perpetrator is a family member. The IFP believes there is an urgent need to combat violence in the home.
South African society still reacts with great insensitivity to victims of abuse. Police and health care workers require further intensive training to deal appropriately and compassionately with victims of violence. There is a need to create safe houses which are accessible to all women, regardless of economic circumstances, so that first time victims do not become entrapped in a pattern of abuse. Medical assistance, psychological treatment after the fact, understanding, safety and information should be available to all women who have undergone such trauma. The IFP will continue to dedicate itself to exterminating the root of this social evil, in addition to dealing with its effects.
In recognition of the role played by women within the family, the IFP realises that the issues of women overlap into issues of reproduction. All women are faced with the issue of child bearing and most of them attend this most demanding and essential function without receiving sufficient support from the rest of society. Throughout all the building blocks of society there should be recognition of the fact that women carry the responsibility of child bearing. In view of this fact the issues of free clinics, medications and treatments, pregnancy support, post-natal services and reproductive freedom, protection and sterilisation are areas of concern to South African women.
The IFP believes that women must be supported in their child bearing and educating role, not only within the family, but also in the other building blocks of society in which they operate. In addition to maternity leave, the productive system must be restructured to accommodate mothers and bring them closer to the family structures. Creches should be regarded as a structural part of a working environment rather than an optional amenity.
Women in traditional communities
With regard to polygamy and polyandry, the position of women should be understood through a comprehensive approach, rather than from the perspective of a single feature. In terms of the constitution, these forms of union demand the same recognition as civil marriages and must be accorded due status.