August is Women’s Month in South Africa-with August 9 being celebrated as Women’s Day. The month sees a variety of events, conversations, celebrations and dialogues about, around and involving women take place. A friend of CAL on Facebook, posted the following reflection on her page which is worth thinking about. The post was originally published here.
About the #WearADoek Campaign from the Department of Arts & Culture in South Africa
The word women is being overused this month, at times I feel annoyed at how we as “women” are seen as beneficiaries of the very same development projects that are meant to empower us. The latest example of this is the #WearADoek campaign of the Department of Arts & Culture, The launch of this campaign encourages women to wear a doek and take their pictures and post them on twitter. Immediately I learnt of this campaign I realised it was meant for the selected few, by the way majority of our rural and urban women have no smart phones and don’t even know how to use them. I have been playing with the Queens language and even reached out for my oxford dictionary as I wanted to check if the meaning of “Commemorate” that my grade 11 English teacher explained to me could perhaps have changed over time. I then realised that the meaning hasn’t changed but the Department has perhaps lost perspective of what this day should mean to those that have walked before us and those that are still marching and engaging on our struggles on different levels. As the women of 1956 are key to today’s commemoration but lived experiences of women today can not go unnoticed. I struggle to accept the Doek as a symbolic part of commemoration when we have young girls that are being forced to get married and be expected to wear the very same Doek. I am struggling to understand how a Doek can be used by the government of today as a commemoration to women when lesbian women experience hate crimes because of their very own rejection of societal prescription on how they should behave, by the way my biological make up has nothing to do with the damn Doek. So the month of August will end, and the focus will be on something else and probably heritage issues, October will come and women will be in the spotlight as awareness of breast cancer will be the focus of that month. November will kick in and the “16 days of activism of no violence against women and children” will be what most advocates and activists will be prioritising with government raising its own profile in the process, December will come and some women will lead preparations for festivities for their families while others will be thinking of how they going to pay for the studies of their children post the festive season. But what really happens in the day to day life of us women in our diversity? How does gender impacts on our lives? Is there any political will in South Africa to relieve the plight of women using a women centred approach? As I am updating my this Facebook status I am saddened by the disjointed efforts of women in pushing for a women centred approach. I am a firm believer of civic participation, I believe that if women at grass root level could lead this plight by this time next year we would be seeing results. I am so tired of the few that sit in boardrooms and think that they can find solutions to challenges that face us. How can that really be when more often than not they struggle to relate to our lived experiences? How can that be when we have not informed the direction of our own empowerment? Who knows us more than we do? Perhaps they see us as beneficiaries and not leaders of our own struggles? How can they do that when they not looking at us through our lenses? How can they do that when they don’t acknowledge that the system also manipulated the very African culture that they see as a barrier to our own development. How can they do that when they just don’t understand us. I guess I have more questions and only one answer. Bafazi, lets advocate for a women centred approach, today, through out the month of August and beyond this month. Aluta Continua, women lets come together and lead as a collective, WoMandla Bafazi. We have come too far kodwa Not Yet Uhuru. I Salute You.
-By Khanyi Kay Dunjwa