On 9 August, we pay special tribute to the thousands of brave mothers, daughters, and sisters who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to challenge the Apartheid pass laws, changing the course of history. This momentous day is a stark reminder that although much progress has been made to realise women’s rights and provide for a more equal society, many systemic obstacles, often invisible and enforced by our society, remain.
As we face the economic onslaught brought on by Covid-19, we have to face the reality that the economic and social consequences brought on by the pandemic have not only deepened historical inequalities, but have also, undeniably, had a much greater impact on the plight of women.
According to a UN Women report on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women and girls, titled _Gender Equality in the Wake of Covid-19_, the pandemic particularly exposed the vulnerable position of women in the labour sector. Generally, women hold less secure jobs than men and earn less, and the labour sectors that were most impacted by the pandemic, such as accommodation and food services, are greatly represented by women. Furthermore, the report also showed the dramatic impact on the income of women working in the informal sector. It is estimated that globally, about 740 million women work in the informal sector, and that the income of these women dropped by about 60% in the first month of the pandemic. The reality is that the informal sector in South Africa is a major contributor to employment and we need to seriously consider the vulnerable situation of women in this sector.
Not only are women disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, but women also represent a large segment of our frontline workers and have been fighting tirelessly against the pandemic. As a nation, we cannot talk about striving for gender equality if we do not realistically address the realities faced by women who are caregivers and breadwinners, while also battling Covid-19.
Our government’s assistance and support policies in these dire times must address this reality. Policies must be informed by data and decision-making cannot exclude women. We cannot simply talk about gender equality while our economic and social support initiatives do not reflect such commitment.
The IFP is a great supporter of self-reliance and providing people with the skills and tools to empower themselves. We must design these tools to empower women to ensure that they can rightfully claim their rights to equal pay and equal opportunities. Above all, we cannot begin to talk about gender equality if we are not winning the horrific, silent war against gender-based violence.
The time for talk of gender equality is over. The IFP calls on Government to act – to place women at the centre of our economic and social support policies in these dire times. The generations of South African women who fought tirelessly for equality and to break down barriers, deserve so much more.
Hon. Princess Phumzile Buthelezi, MPL
IFP Women’s Brigade National Chairperson
073 216 0918