CIVICUS, Human Rights Institute of South Africa (HURISA), Tosunga Baninga, Social Justice, and other members of civil society and activist communities gathered at Constitution Court on March 6. This was part of the Women’s Global Strike ahead of International Women’s Day.
International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. It is a day that’s occurred for over a century. The first day took place in 1911. The 2020 edition of IWD is quite significant. Many grass roots activists and human rights defenders will stand in solidarity against the pervasive levels of violence against women, gender inequality, and the closure of civic space for women human rights defenders.
Ahead of the day, the civil society organisations gathered at Constitutional Court. The programme contained a march around the court. It culminated in a meeting at the Women’s Jail where a statement was handed over to the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE). The statement demands greater protections for women and children in South Africa.
The year marks 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. This a declaration that sets forward an agenda for women’s empowerment and is considered the key global policy document on gender equality. It sets strategic objectives and actions for the advancement of women and the achievement of gender equality in 12 critical areas of concern.
The civil society decided to hold the protest action because despite the government ratifying the declaration and convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, they have found there is still a lot of work to be done.
There are 11 key concerns that civil society wants the CGE to address and present to the government. They want a followup on progress made to outlaw ukuthwala and cultural practices perpetuating patriarchy. The statement calls for a follow up of the forced disappearances, extra judicial killing, and violence against women human rights defenders. CGE has been called on to take steps to end violence, discrimination, the murder of people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Masana Ndinga from CIVICUS told The Daily Vox that her organisation decided to get involved because many of the women organising around the global strike are facing a heavy-handed backlash even in democratic countries.
Ndinga said: “The most important reason is that the crisis of inequality, gender-based violence, and climate change are all interlinked and affect predominantly brown bodies occupied by women around the world. International Women’s Day is significant for the solidarity it brings from multiple actors.”
Corlett Letlojane from HURISA said South Africa is one of the state parties that have submitted a report to tell the world what we have done. “We are standing here to speak with women and to say that we are going to consolidate our efforts. We’re going to monitor the enforcement of those rights.”
Norma Mbele from Tosunga Baninga told The Daily Vox: “We have high numbers of women that have been murdered and we have got justice in many cases. It’s important to hand [the statement] to the CGE as they speak to many institutions and have influence.”
International Women’s Day is celebrated globally through protests, strikes, and pickets to show a global solidarity movement.