COSATU Women’s Day Statement -2019

The Congress of South African Trade Unions joins millions of South Africans to commemorate the National Women’s Day,09 August 2019. This is a day that not only reminds us of the heroic role of women in defeating apartheid and moulding a democratic South Africa but also allows us to reflect on the progress made and the challenges that still remain in the battle for the emancipation of women in our country.

As we kick off Women’s month, COSATU salutes all women, young and seasoned women who work in farms, factories, offices, science laboratories, politics and every other workplaces, where they are hard at work, making a contribution towards building South Africa.

Our approach to the conception of the emancipation of women is heavily influenced by the Burkinabé revolutionary leader, Thomas Sankara, who said; “Woman’s fate is bound up with that of the exploited male.  This is a fact. However, this solidarity, arising from the exploitation that both men and women suffer and that binds them together historically, must not cause us to lose sight of the specific reality of the woman’s situation.  The conditions of her life are determined by more than economic factors, and they that she is a victim of specific oppression… It is true that both she and the male worker are condemned to silence by their exploitation.  But under the current economic system, the worker’s wife is also condemned to silence by her worker-husband.  In other words, in addition to the class exploitation common to both of them, women must confront a particular set of relations that exist between them and men”.

The Federation has been at the forefront in waging the battle for the total emancipation of women in the country. It was on the 12th July 1989 when COSATU held its third congress at Nasrec where women’s issues came to the fore and various
resolutions, including a demand for maternity rights, were proposed and accepted. Women in the trade union movement have made many strides; however, there is a lot of groundwork that still needs to be done to ensure that women progress in all spheres of society.

For us, women’s emancipation is, therefore, a central feature of the struggle against apartheid and capitalism. Women still face hardship in accessing and sustaining their participation in the labour market. The majority of women have to juggle careers and domestic responsibility such as cooking and taking care of children. The shortage of childcare facilities and the sexual division of labour in the home impose serious burdens on women.  Maternity leave and pay provision are also inadequate, and in some cases, even the legislated minimum is not complied with.

Women of our country are still being subjected to the scourge of gender-based violence. This is happening despite the various legal frameworks such as the Domestic Violence Act being put in place. The Judicial System needs to tackle this issue and stem this tide of abuse of women.

COSATU wants to see Employment Equity legislation being properly implemented in order to transform occupational segregation in the workplace. There is a need to address reproductive health demands of women in the workplace. For example, access to pap smears, providing safe working conditions that do not affect the reproductive health of women, and conducive working conditions for women that are pregnant and breastfeeding.  In order for these issues to be addressed, women should be part of the decision making structures at all levels.

COSATU is proud to have contributed to the decision to provide treatment in the public health system to prevent transmission of HIV through rape and from women to children. These programmes use targeted treatment with antiretrovirals. Now we have to expand these programmes so that all women have access.

COSATU recommits itself to building all its unions into an even stronger bulwark for women, as workers and as members of our communities. The Federation will continue to be a source of empowerment and protection for women workers, in particular. We shall continue to push political, business and societal leaders to provide consistent leadership on gender issues.

We wish all the women of South Africa a wonderful Women’s Day.

  Issued by COSATU

 Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794