The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) wishes all the women of South Africa eternal strength and solidarity during the commemoration of National Women’s Day tomorrow (09 August 2020) and onwards during this pandemic. We salute all women who hold and keep families, the economy, and the entire nation alive and standing during these uncertain and difficult times.

This Women’s Day of 2020 comes 35 years since the establishment of COSATU, 26 years since the advent of democracy in South Africa, 25 years since the Beijing Platform of Action. It is being commemorated in the midst of a double crisis of an economic recession and a deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

These twin troubles have served to further cripple the working class. We have seen an escalation in levels of Gender-Based Violence, Femicide, domestic violence and sexual harassment in the world of work. These factors have forced the federation to deepen its reflection on the position of women in our society and the possibility of attaining genuine gender equality.

Since its formation more than three decades ago, the federation of workers resolved to focus on the exploitation of women workers.

It has since consistently worked on various interventions that have included: policy, national and international negotiations, education, lobbying, including collaboration with like-minded institutions and civil society organisations. To date, the federation has reached the level of gender parity in the composition of its National Office Bearers. But more work is still needed to ensure that this goal is attained at levels by all structures of the federation.

Nationally, our government has not made a dent or brought sustainable interventions in the eradication of poverty which impacts over 60% of South African women, mostly black.  The majority of South African women remain on the margins of the economy and the arrival of COVID-19 to our shores has ruthlessly exposed and exacerbated all the weaknesses in the economy, education, and our health systems.

Already by June 2020, reports showed that more than 200 000 women had lost their jobs. The most affected are those at the bottom end of the economic pyramid in vulnerable sectors like domestic workers.

All projections point to the fact that by the end of the pandemic, millions of jobs will have been lost with a possible four out of five jobs lost being lost by women, as was the case in the global economic recession of 2008.

Under COVID-19 we have seen the unprecedented cases of corrupt activities within the state. We have seen just how precariously our children and educators are existing in public education institutions. Also exposed are the huge inequalities within and between provincial health systems. Women have been locked in with their abusers and have been sitting ducks to Gender-Based Violence and this has shown the unpreparedness of our collaborative systems to respond to GBV.

Many of the supposed beneficiaries of the UIF are yet to receive the funds, with most domestic workers unable to collect after heartless dismissals by non-compliant employers.

We still live with the intransigent discrimination and undermining of women. Women remain under-represented in decision-making positions and where they have been promoted, they continue to have to jump through hoops and undergo tests before being taken seriously. Their remuneration remains below that of men holding similar positions in different workplaces. The post-employment impoverishment of women continues unabated as a result of the perpetual wage gap and the role women play in sustaining extended households.

The year 2019 was a watershed year for women of the world in the workplace as the ILO adopted convention 190 that seeks to eradicate sexual harassment and violence in the workplace. South Africa has a systemic gender-based violence problem and the violence often follows women to the workplace. This woman’s month, working woman in South Africa look forward to the ratification of convention 190 to ensure that workplaces are a safer place for women to exist.

On this National Women’s Day COSATU wants to reiterate the following demands and reaffirm its stance on the following:

·         Provision of effective PPE for all health workers, the majority of whom are women.

·         Eradication of nefarious tendencies in the COVID-19 response.

·         Our call for the ratification of the ILO Conventions 190 and its Recommendation 206

·     Immediate Coverage of domestic workers under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA) and its implementation to benefit domestic workers.

·         Support for the speedy establishment and capacitation of the Legislated GBV Council.

·         Eradication of the evil nexus of poverty, inequality, and unemployment

·         Eradication of the evil alliance between capitalism, racism, and patriarchy

·         Eradication of violence against women and GBV in the world of work and in society.

·         Support for women’s rights and substantive gender equality

·         Support for NHI, its speedy implementation and urgent improvement of all social infrastructure

·         Support for public investment in public education, skills development, and health workers’ education

·         Support for institutional mechanisms that advance women’s rights and gender equality

·         Demand for the fair and just distribution of economic returns that benefits workers and working women in particular

·         Support for the promotion and respect of women in decision-making positions

·         Support for the transformation of institutions that accommodates, promotes, and supports all, especially women and all other marginalised groups

Long live the fighting spirit of working women, long live! Long live the women of South Africa, long live!

Issued by COSATU

Gertrude Mtsweni (COSATU Gender Coordinator)

Cell: 082 829 2966

 Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Cell: 060 975 6794