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#SafeTaxisNow march in Soweto is not the end in the fight for women’s safety

A group of women, children, and men gathered outside Bara Taxi Rank on Saturday, 24 June to disrupt the streets of Soweto. “Our streets! Our bodies!” could be heard in between the hooting of taxis.

The march was the final event of the #SafeTaxisNow campaign organised by the Soweto Women’s Forum and Soul City Institute, aimed at shining a light on the social ill that is violence against women, children, and queer folk.

“This isn’t the end of the campaign but the start of something bigger because there are promises that we have made. We have promised the people that we have worked with that we are going to achieve them,” said Soul City’s advocacy manager Matokgo Makutoane to the marchers gathered outside Maponya Mall at the end of the march.

Youth programme coordinator for Soweto Women’s Forum Manku Noruka, said their next stop will be meeting at Naledi community hall to pledge solidarity with the women living there. “We have identified Naledi as our hotspot due to the fact that the cases happening in Naledi were more than in other townships. We don’t know why women in Naledi are being targeted but we are going to stand with the women at Naledi. We are going to paint Naledi black,” she said.

The march made its way through Bara Taxi Rank, a major hub of transportation in Soweto.

 

“Hlala phansi ubambe umthetho (sit down and be defiant)”. Marchers sat down in the middle of the street at Bara Taxi Rank to disrupt the space.

 

While the march moved through the taxi rank, there was a brief altercation with a taxi driver and a rank marshal. The crowd gathered around the men who were upset that their space was being disrupted.

Zukiswa White from the Soweto Women’s Forum reminded the crowd that the fight against violence has to be intersectional. “We can’t talk about women’s justice without talking about justice for lesbian women in this country. We can’t talk of justice without thinking of trans people’s struggles. We can’t talk about justice without talking about capitalism. It’s an evil system and we want it to fall.”

Other organisations at the march included Vosloo Activista, ActionAid, Right2Know Campaign, Child Welfare, Christian Revival Church, Young Urban Women, and the National Taxi Alliance.

Even children attended the march. Thakgalo Somo (11) had women cheering her on when she picked up the megaphone and gave an impassioned speech, showing the fierceness within a girl. This grade 6 pupil has established community-based projects at her school, Nkholi Primary. She teaches other children about abuse and that they should fight it.

“We are sick and tired of the men not controlling themselves. We are sick and tired of them taking us as slaves. We are not their slaves. We are human beings. We the women control the nation. We are the mothers of the nation. We are everything. We give birth to the sons. Let us teach them. Let us continue being in their lives because that is what we’re made [for]. Let’s show them that we are tired of them burning us. We are tired of them thinking that they have control over us. That is a lie! We have the power. Amandla! Awethu!”

The Soweto Women’s Forum organised a small space in front of Maponya Mall where women could take the mike and speak their minds about how women in South Africa are treated. Representatives from organisations also came forward and pledged solidarity to the movement.

 

One the day’s most powerful messages: Don’t let people undermine you.

 

The #SafeTaxisNow campaign, which was launched in the wake of sexual violence against women and LGBTQIA+ people on taxis is a national concern. The campaign has given them space to speak out against the injustices and unite against it. Their work is not over as long as there is still gender-based violence, but they have set the agenda.

Phambili bafazi, phambili! Forward women, forward!

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