The Hon. Ms Liezl Van Der Merwe MP
Inkatha Freedom Party
This year, our fight against gender-based violence received a dramatic boost. Not because of ANY government programme or ANY parliamentary debate. But it came through the silent protest of four brave young women at the IEC Results Centre recently.
Without uttering single word, their message was clear: we can no longer afford to ignore the culture of rape, in our country.
But the beauty of their bravery, stood in sharp contrast to the behaviour of some of our female leaders, who almost came to blows over this peaceful protest. One must condemn leadership that promotes violence, instead of fighting for the women’s rights of women.
Speaker, Government still has no concrete, workable, costed plan to end rape and gender based violence. And as we stand here today, to once more debate Women’s Day, millions of South Africa’s women and girls STILL face the brunt of poverty. Women are not safe in their homes, or on the streets. Women still do not earn equal pay for doing the same work as a man. An in councils across the country, only 31.5% of ward councillors that have been elected on 3 August 2016, are women. This is simply not good enough. We know these facts. But somehow, until it becomes personal, we don’t act.
So today, I want to speak about one young girl, the fifteen-year-old, Beauty Khuzwayo, from KwaZulu Natal.
Although Beauty’s family has little income, she aspires to become a nurse. She is determined to complete Grade 12. But she faces a hidden obstacle. Once a month, she is forced to miss a week of school because, simply because her family cannot buy her sanitary products.
So she sits at home, waiting to re-join her classmates and wondering how she will catch up on all she has missed. Like millions of South African school girls, Beauty forfeits her right to education for a few days each month. She falls behind in the curriculum. She misses tests. For every few steps forward, she must take one step back.
We tell her that women are the backbone of our society. We tell her that it is a national priority to empower women to be drivers of our economy. But we are failing our young women like her.
If Government CAN provide free condoms, even flavoured ones, we CAN provide free sanitary products to school girls that cannot afford them. This was after all the commitment made by President Zuma in his State of the Nation Address in 2011.
It is against this background, that the IFP, also pledged its support to provide sanitary dignity to school girls. And as we take control of 14 municipalities, we will ensure that we fulfil that commitment.
Honourable Speaker; that is the IFP moving South Africa women forward. Let us honour the heroes of the past, with tangible action to improve the lives of our women and children. It is within our power to do so.