Once a year, the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl Child — to honour the progress that has already been made for gender equality, and to highlight the work that still needs to be done.
This year, on October 11, Global Citizen teamed up with the Danish Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, to bring together activists, influencers, NGOs, and government officials as part of our #SheIsEqual campaign.
Together, we shared perspectives on gender equality, on gender-based violence, and on women’s economic empowerment.
One of the many speakers who took to the stage was Dr. Makaziwe Mandela, the daughter of Nelson Mandela, who highlighted that poverty is at the very centre of ongoing gender inequality in South Africa.
For Mandela, women need to understand the power they already possess.
“We do not need empowerment because we are already empowered,” she told the audience. “Everyone comes through a woman; if it wasn’t for a woman, we wouldn’t be here.”
Dr. Makazive Mandela: “We have the power within!” 🇿🇦 Amb. Sheila Sisulu: “We just need to help girls and women recognize their power within!” #GlobalCitizen #SheisEqual#BeTheGeneration#TotalShutDown#DayoftheGirl #IDG2018@DKAMBinSApic.twitter.com/DG2MfRHCrb— Vibeke Huge Rehfeld (@VHRehfeld) October 11, 2018
And to realise their power, women need to stand together and stand up for each other in their workplaces and in other public spaces.
“What we need to learn is how do we utilise the levels of power that are in society?” she said. “How do we learn to network better amongst ourselves as women? We fail in those things.”
Women make up 51% of South Africa’s population, but currently women hold only 44% of the country’s skilled labour posts.
This lack of access and control over resources and assets, and women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care work, impacts on their ability to fully participate in society.
The gap needs to be closed, and equal economic and social participation between women and men needs to be promoted — creating a society in which women are acknowledged and accommodated as capable, deserving equals.
Lindiwe Mazibuko, former parliamentarian and co-founder of the Apolitical Academy, also used her time on stage to look at the challenges faced in addressing the gender pay gap.
To do that, she compared the issue to the supply and demand of economics.
“At the supply side, women are being educated to believe that their role is in the home doing unpaid labour to support the market in which men participate for pay,” she said. “On the demand side, we have economics that are being built… buildings that are structured and built around men and the male autonomy.”
Today, in celebration of International Day of the Girl Child, we’re proud to have @lady_zamar entertain the crowd at the amazing #SheIsEqual seminar at @DKEMBinSA in Pretoria. pic.twitter.com/0qnRW4hV1d— Global Citizen Impact (@GlblCtznImpact) October 11, 2018
In finding solutions to this, Mazibuko suggested that not only should women rightfully occupy professional labour markets — which are male-dominated — these markets should also restructure to accommodate women’s needs.
If women do find themselves doing domestic duties, as per the system design, they should be compensated for it, she said.
“The reason a male worker is able to leave the home and leave the children with the unemployed female partner is precisely because someone is at home doing the work,” she said. “So why don’t we take that burden either on the government or private sector to remunerate women for staying home and doing unpaid labour?”
And Sheila Sisulu, ambassador for the Albertina Sisulu Foundation, also backed this up — putting the emphasis on the need to keep questioning traditional cultural practices that continue to victimise women and serve the interests of men.
“Women should refuse to be the enforcers of patriarchy in the name of culture and tradition,” she said.
The year 2018 has already been a huge year for gender equality in South Africa, with the emergence of a number of women’s rights movements.
One of the biggest of these was #TheTotalShutdown, which saw thousands of women take to the streets on August 1, calling for an end to gender violence.
Brenda Madunise-Pajibo, a representative for the movement, also took the podium to tell the audience about the years of effort that has already gone into building the movement — and why it’s so important.
“For a long time in this country, we have been at it trying to bring awareness in gender-based violence and it was not gaining traction at all,” she said. “We had policies and legislation, but we kept on questioning the victim.”
“We ask women, what was she doing at the tavern? Why was she wearing a short dress? Why did she leave with him to his hotel room? Why did it take 20-30 years to report rape?” she continued.
But, for Madunise-Pajibo, the movement is a safe space where women can speak about their experiences and not be judged. It has created a place where “women can be each other’s keepers.”
According to Madunise-Pajibo, being able to go about daily life without fear is the true essence of freedom.
But, according to UN representative Anne Githuku-Shongwe, it’s not just up to women to find a solution — instead, all sectors need to come together.
“Violence is in every single sector in this country, and it is not the responsibility of a group of women who came out and fought against it,” Githuku-Shongwe said, saying that “every institution” needs to be on board.
Most particularly, she said, gender-based violence could be completely diminished if men joined the cause too, to call each other out, and to stop protecting and promoting patriarchy.
The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.