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SOUTH AFRICAN WOMEN’S UNYIELDING STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY

Nadiya Hattia | 7 March 2024



International Women’s Day (IWD) resonates through history as a beacon and a call to arms for the worldwide fight for women’s rights and gender equality. However, when we delve into the layers of this celebration, the specific obstacles encountered by South African women, particularly Black women, come to light. These challenges underscore the distinct historical and socio-political landscapes that define their battle,” states Nadiya Hattia, Service Desk Senior Consultant at The BEE Chamber.


Rooted in the labour movements of the early 20th century, IWD was conceived amid calls for improved work conditions, equal pay, and the right to vote. Over the years, its scope expanded, encompassing a global plea to eradicate gender-based discrimination, violence, and inequality. 


“The statistics, however, paint a stark reality,” explains Zena Harvey, Data Analyst at The BEE Chamber. “Only 26.5% of global parliamentary seats are occupied by women, there is an earnings gap of 23% – 33%, and a staggering 66% of illiterate individuals worldwide are women according to the Global Data on national Parliaments, UN Women 2023, Unesco 2023 Report.”


The 1956 Women’s March to the Union Buildings in Pretoria,

During apartheid, Black South African women were not only fighting for basic women’s rights but also for their fundamental human rights. The 1956 Women’s March to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where over 20,000 women protested against the pass laws, serves as a poignant example of their fight against the intersection of racial and gender oppression. These women were not merely advocating for gender equality, they were challenging an entire system of racial oppression that sought to deny them their basic dignity and rights as human beings.


“The psychological toll of this compounded oppression cannot be exaggerated. The intersectionality of gender and racial discrimination leaves permanent imprints on mental health which manifest as heightened stress, anxiety, and a pervasive sense of injustice. In a society that systematically devalues based on race and gender, the struggle for identity and self-worth becomes an internal battle that affects self-esteem and mental well-being,” says Harvey.


South African women confront challenges

In the post-apartheid era, legal and constitutional steps toward gender equality have been made, yet South African women confront challenges distinct from their global counterparts. Gender-based violence, economic inequality, and the persistent echoes of apartheid’s racial hierarchies layer complexity onto their pursuit of equality. IWD, while a global call to arms, requires us to delve deeper to understand the unique struggles etched into the fabric of different regions.


Harvey states: “As we commemorate IWD, let us not only acknowledge but also champion the diverse experiences of women worldwide. The journey towards equality is multifaceted and deeply influenced by historical and socio-political contexts.” Hattia adds: “While we celebrate progress, we must also champion the voiceless, especially in regions where the struggle for equal rights remains an ongoing battle.” 


“Amidst adversity, let the resilience of South African women serve as our guiding light,” suggests Harvey, “a symbol that our quest for equality requires steadfast dedication and an indomitable will.”


The BEE Chamber is committed to seeing women thrive in the workplace and that they receive the same opportunities presented to their male counterparts. By providing expert advice to help deliver improvements in B-BBEE business strategies, monitoring, and implementation, The BEE Chamber ensures that women in organisations are heard and prioritised as organisations plan for the future. 


For more information on The BEE Chamber and the services it provides, please visit The BEE Chamber website, or contact the team via members@bee.co.za or 011 726-3052.




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