It is 67 years since the historic women’s march of 1956. In 1994, 38 years after the women’s march, South Africa held its first liberal democratic elections. The advent of liberal democracy meant the economic system of capitalism was retained and continued. Though the apartheid policy of separate development along racial lines was abolished, the retention of capitalism meant the old social relations which were formed under colonialism and stamped under apartheid were left intact. 

It is this legacy, saved by the retention of capitalism, that continues to see the inequalities between population groups and gender continued. 

The locus of patriarchy and racism, has made the condition of the black African women to be the worst in our society. Consequently, they are at the bottom of the pyramid and at the receiving end of the social crisis of capitalism than any other group. 

Income and economy 

Today, there are over 6 million unemployed women (including those discouraged to find jobs) in South Africa, the overwhelming majority are black at 51%. In quarter 1 of 2023, 43.1% of young women aged between 15 – 34 years were Not in any form of Employment, Education and Training (NEET), compared to 37,75% of their male counterparts. 

In 2022, the World Bank Inequality report indicated that SA had a 37% gender pay parity, way above the global estimate average of 20%. However, the bulk of the gender pay gap is suffered by black women as shown in the 2020 Oxfam Report. Oxfam reported that the median monthly income for black women is estimated at R2 500, compared to R3 250 for black men, R10 000 white women and R13 100 white men. 

In this case, the racial legacies of apartheid racism shows that the gender parity is in some spheres of life squashed by racial parities, hence a white woman earn higher than a black man. 

Human development index 

Oxfam further reported that only 1 out of 10 black women attend tertiary institution. The high rate of drop-out in the schooling system is a symptom of a poor public education and dysfunctional black families, in which the bearers of the burden are women. 

To illustrate this, the Oxfam report went further to show that 37% of SA households are headed by women, and 48% of female-headed households support extended family members. In these households headed by black women, R58 000 is an average annual expenditure, whilst white women headed households spend four times higher annually, at R258 000. 

In many areas of life such as work and civil organisation, women are still disadvantaged to fully participate because they have to take care of children. This is because in both civics and workplaces, the society has not made any progress to lift the burden of child-rearing from the shoulders of women. 

Many workplaces, including trade unions, do not have childcare felicities despite advocating for such. This means women are mostly reluctant to take time-consuming roles of leadership in their organisations and trade unions because of childcaring responsibilities, which society has despite making technological progress that can lift the burden of childcaring from the shoulders of women, fails to do so. 

Patriarchy, violence and rape 

Many centuries of a male domination in society; in society’s economic structure and structures of polity, have produced and reproduced the cultural and customary regulations/policing of women’s conduct in society. The Judaeo-Christian traditions that came with colonialism rigidified the gender relations and the powers thereof. 

In the period of capitalism, the ordinary working class men who possess no economic means to carve a livelihood and their social status have resorted to violence to enforce their traditionally carved social status. The consequence have been the most egregious violence against women in society at large, and in domestic households. 

The latest Crime Statistics by the South African Police Service (SAPS) shows that between January and March 2023, 10 512 people were raped, the overwhelming majority of whom were women. This translate into 117 people raped daily. 

SAPS recorded 2 693 cases of sexual assault other than rape in quarter 1 of 2023, and the totality of these cases including rape were 13 205. Because of how rape strip people dignity and the lack of faith in the police, many women no longer report rape incidences. This means, such rape or sexual assault statistics are a conservative figure. 

The fight continues 

The rise of the new trends of feminist movements in our campuses in recent years brings a glimmer of hope. However, feminism must be spread into other organisations of the working class fighting in the other two most important theatres of class struggle: communities and workplaces. Civic organisations and trade unions must adopt and develop a strong feminist ideology: socialist feminism. 

Though we believe it is important to fight for feminist reforms now and not later, socialist feminism centres in its struggles the importance for the abolishment of a capitalist system. Not acknowledging the value of reproductive labour, the bulk of which is done by women, is due to the capitalist system and how capitalism conceives of and recognises the creation of value in society. 

SAFTU calls on the working men and women to take up the struggle against patriarchy, domestic violence, violence against women and children. The struggle against patriarchy is not a struggle for women only. Instead, it is a struggle for the whole of society, just like fighting imperialism and capitalist exploitation is. 

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