Address To The Nation On National Women's
Day, 9 August 1999
Fellow South Africans,
Today, August 9th is National Women's Day. On this
day, as a nation, we re-commit ourselves to the advancement
of women at all levels of our society.
In doing this, we are alive to the harsh reality that
faces women in our country today. For many years, the
majority of women in our country, particularly in the
rural areas and the townships, have borne the brunt
of poverty and hardship. The lives of these women were,
and, indeed, still are, characterised by low levels
of literacy and inequitable access to education, health,
housing, water, fuel sources and employment opportunities.
Many amongst the women of this country have experienced
violence, abuse, rape, sexual harassment and are the
worst affected by the scourge of HIV/AIDS. They daily
carry the scars of their suffering often in solitary
silence and without adequate counselling and support.
At the same time, both the government as well as organs
of civil society, have responded, as we should, to confront
these degrading and humiliating conditions facing our
women, so that together we build a better, more humane
and caring society. But more needs to be done.
Together we must bring the abuse and violence against
women to an end. In this regard, we must speed up the
establishment of one-stop centres for abused women and
children. Special measures have been put in place for
the criminal justice system to deal sensitively with
the survivors of rape. The time has come for all of
us to end the cycles of abuse and violence against women
and children that have engulfed our communities. As
we mark National Women's Day today, let all of us --
each and every one - ask ourselves a question: why do
we keep silent when we are witnesses to violence against
women; why do we keep silent when we are daily subjected
to intolerable abuse!
I would like all South Africans, individually and collectively,
to pause and reflect on the incalculable damage that
this violence has inflicted on our society, the way
in which it reduces us to less than human and destroys
the possibility to rebuild the fabric of our society.
Let every man respect the dignity of women!
Let every man pay his child maintenance!
Let every man stop abusing women and children!
It is in the interest of the health of our nation,
that we intensify our work on the issue of HIV/AIDS,
ensuring that our public education campaigns are effective
and we must do all we can to improve support to AIDS
victims and orphans.
Fellow South Africans,
I am pleased to announce that the Department of Arts,
Culture, Science and Technology, as part of the National
Legacy Project, is holding a competition open to all
for the design and erection of a monument to commemorate
and celebrate the contribution of women to the struggle
for freedom and justice in South Africa.
Today as we remember those twenty thousand women who
took part in the 1956 march, and also the struggle of
all South Africans, let us also pay tribute to our mothers,
our wives, our daughters, for their selflessness, their
creativity, their love, their commitment to their country,
as they continue to work for their full emancipation,
through their words and deeds, in their daily lives.
We cannot say we are making progress as a people and
a nation, unless the women of our country have shelters
over their heads, adequate food to feed themselves and
their families, health care, and access to clean water
We cannot say we are moving forward faster towards
the attainment of complete liberation from the legacy
of the past unless the women of our country live without
fear in their houses and walk freely through the streets
and villages of our land.
We cannot move forward faster to the goal of a better
life for all unless the women of our country receive
the necessary education and training that enable them
to reach their full potential and are themselves the
African pioneers leading all of us into the African
century which should also be the century for African
For women to take their rightful place on centre-stage
in the development of Africa, requires a collective
effort of all the people of our continent, and the inculcation
of a new consciousness of gender equality at all levels.
The attainment of a people-centred, caring society
is a task that cannot be postponed for one day more.
Let us together get down to work to achieve this goal,
and with the liberation of our women.