COSATU Women’s Day Statement

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) joins millions of South Africans in saluting the gallant bravery and vision of the women of August 9, 1956, who stood up under very trying conditions, and marched against the citadel of the then apartheid regime at Union Buildings in Pretoria. 

This and other countless acts of defiance laid the foundations for the democratic breakthrough that was attained in 1994.  These symbolised selflessness and courage something this country needs at this time as we seek to overcome the struggles of today.

On this day, when we remember their sacrifices, we must rekindle our commitment towards the total emancipation of women.  The challenges facing girls and women in South Africa today are daunting; where about 45% of South Africans cannot find work. Our society remains the most unequal in the world, state capture and corruption has decimated the state, and government is struggling to provide the necessary public services to improve the lives of the downtrodden and stimulate the economy. 

These challenges are worse for women and girls.  Whilst society battles with many socio-economic difficulties, women and girls are subject to horrific levels of gender-based violence and crime, often at the hands of those who  are expected  to care for and protect them.

Whilst these issues  are daunting, we should take comfort from the strides we have made.  Our Constitution provides a framework for a progressive society. About  900 000 domestic workers have seen their wages rise from R15 an hour in 2019 to R23.19 in 2022. 

The Compensation of Injury on Duty Amendment Bill is now before Parliament and will ensure that domestic workers will for the first time be insured for injuries at work.  The Maintenance Amendment Act empowers the state to garnish the salaries of and blacklist partners and fathers who refuse to pay maintenance for their former partners and their children.  Maternity leave benefits were significantly increased, delinked from unemployment insurance credits and expanded to cover stillborn births and 3rd trimester miscarriages. 

The National Parliament has passed three progressive Gender Based Violence Amendment Acts that significantly tighten our criminal legislation and expand protections for survivors.  South African ratified the International Labour Organisation’s Convention on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Workplace in 2021.  The Employment Equity Amendment Bill strengthening measures to ensure women are protected from discrimination at the workplace is now before Parliament.

Women’s Day is a moment to reflect on what previous generations of women, and ordinary South Africans have achieved, often against unsurmountable odds.  It is a moment to remember and mourn the painful losses many women and girls have gone through in a society that all too often fails them.  Most importantly, it is a chance for all South Africans, in particular men, to reflect on where we are, what we have done and what we need to do better to ensure that our daughters, wives, sisters, mothers and grandmothers can live safe and fulfilling lives.

We need to use this opportunity to recommit ourselves to fighting for the elimination of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, violence, abuse, poverty and inequality at a workplace and in our communities. 

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 010 219 1339
Cell: 060 975 6794