Address by Deputy Minster Pahad on 16 Days of No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign, 14 December 2003, Pretoria

Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Ten years ago when we won the battle for our freedom, we knew we had come so far from where we had begun on this long and difficult journey against colonialism and apartheid rule. Ten years ago, when we established a non-racial and non-sexist democratic South Africa, we believed that this would be a new beginning for the people of South Africa.

Finally we had it in our power, within the palm of our hands to create a people-centred society, a country of caring communities that would work together to create a better life for all. We took our proud and rightful places as Africans concerned about the fate of the African continent and as people of the South eager to reclaim our place as equals in the world community.

The world itself was in upheaval, globalisation was creating changes that no-one had foreseen. The people of the world who lived so separate and so far apart could begin to communicate with each other as though they truly were living in one space, one village of one world.

Yet it was doing these profound changes, that the people of this planet recognized that sexism and discrimination were continuing to rear its ugly head - the victims of genocide and war, of daily suffering and unprovoked violence were the world's women and children. Those who were raped, beaten, deprived of their livelihoods and their loved ones, held in captivity, tortured, and killed, were women. It was during this period that rape began to be recognized as a war crime, that the plight of women during war time as well as in reconstruction began to be recognized as crucial especially with regard to reconciliation and in the building of a new society in the post-conflict period. The campaign of 16 days of no violence against women and children came to exist as a United Nations endorsed initiative, so that the people of the world would participate in creating a consciousness of women's suffering and the need for a human rights culture that was sensitive to and fully inclusive of women and children's rights in society.

Within our South African society, we knew that although we had come so far through struggle, that the fight for women's emancipation had only just begun, that the battle for women's freedom from want, from violence, from suffering, had to be taken from the public podium into the private spaces of the home, into the hearts and minds of ordinary people, both men and women. The girl child and the boy child would need to be informed of their rights and the rights of their mothers and grandmothers. The new African should emerge into a new democracy, conscious that the place of women is equal to the place of men and to the respect accorded to men. As it is stated in the conclusion of a new book called Gender in Southern African Politics: Ringing up the Change:

"South Africa is no stranger in struggle…. A lesson of the last two decades is that freedom can never be taken for granted…. Enter the struggle for gender equality with a reminder that democracy has not even been achieved because patriarchy (the system of men dominating women in all spheres of society) is incompatible with democracy…. We can thus not be complacent about democracy, relying on it to deliver gender equality The point is we need to transform gender relations… It is the biggest challenge that all Southern African countries and people face, as we go into the next future."

Thus, as we participate in this grassroots campaign of consciousness and concerted action to take us towards a healthy nation of peace-loving people working together towards prosperity and sustained development, let us bring our ideas together as to how we can take this campaign further, so that we do not have to retrace our steps into the past, so that we do not falter in our democratic endeavours, but take along everyone. Every woman, every man and every child needs to move forward into a better future and only non-sexism and non-discrimination - the notion that as the human race we need to be accorded full equality - that while people are different in colour and creed and culture and sex, together through preaching and living equality, they can ensure a more humane reality for the world.

To stop the violence requires more than 16 days work.
It requires 365 days a year - if not more - of consciousness-building, teaching and actions that bring about full emancipation and equality. It also requires great strength on the part of our people, especially of our women to report any wrong-doing, to speak out and not to continue to bear the brunt of suffering and abuse. I am reminded of a poem by Abena Busia, daughter of the late Kofi Busia, a former Prime Minister of Ghana, when in her poem "Liberation", she so aptly describes the plight of women and their power to overcome this and to be fully free. I would like to end by reading from this poem that honours the role of African women and celebrates our struggle to overcome the past and to create a new Africa that contributes to a new world.

We are all mothers,
and we have that fire within us,
of powerful women
whose spirits are so angry
we can laugh beauty into life
and still make you taste
the salty tears of our knowledge-
For we are not tortured
we have seen beyond your lies and disguises,
and we have mastered the language of words,
we have mastered speech
And know
we have also seen ourselves raw
and naked piece by piece until our flesh lies flayed
with blood on our own hands.
What terrible thing can you do us
which we have not done to ourselves?
What can you tell us
which we didn't deceive ourselves with
a long time ago?
You cannot know how long we cried
until we laughed
over the broken pieces of our dreams.
shattered us into such fragments
we had to unearth ourselves piece by piece,
to recover with our own hands such unexpected relics
even we wondered
how we could hold such treasure.
Yes, we have conceived
to forge our mutilated hopes
beyond your imaginings
to declare the pain of our deliverance:
So do not even ask,
do not ask what it is we are labouring with this time;
Dreamers remember their dreams
when they are disturbed-
And you shall not escape
what we will make
of the broken pieces of our lives.

In this spirit of strength and of the importance of rebuilding broken lives, of an African recovery for an African renaissance, let us pledge to do all we can do and even more than what we dream is possible to take forward the message of equality, to bring home the importance of full emancipation and to convey the reality of what this means, and how we can build a new society by taking the first necessary step to stop the tide of violence so that we can take great strides into a better future.

I thank you.

Issued by Ronnie Mamoepa : 082 990 4853

C/o Department of Foreign Affairs
Private Bag X152

14 December 2003

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