COSATU International Women’s Day statement

The Congress of South African Trade Unions salutes all working-class women in our country, in the continent, and around the world on their significant day, International Women’s Day. This year’s important day is celebrated under the 2023 theme of; “DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality,” 

This theme speaks to the role of innovative technology in promoting gender equality. This is a topic that does not get enough attention in South Africa where women continue to be the face of poverty and the face of HIV and AIDS, especially black working-class women.

Socio-economic conditions and patriarchal attitudes that justify and perpetuate the abuse of women are driving the staggeringly high rates of domestic violence and rape in South Africa. 

Women and girls are by far the most at risk and most affected by gender-based violence.  Women remain responsible for the bulk of unpaid reproductive labour.  This includes all of the work that contributes to reproducing society, such as housework, childbearing and child-rearing, which is invisible, not paid and not counted in national statistics. 

The levels of unemployment and poverty experienced by young black women are extraordinarily high. Members of the LGBT are still discriminated against in the workplace and society purely based on their sexual orientation.  Migrant women are vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, and violence, and are the biggest victims of human trafficking.

The Federation is of the firm view that a day like this should be celebrated and honoured by everyone. We believe that men have a vital role to play to ensure that women are emancipated from the shackles of oppression and patriarchy. 

At a workplace level women workers form the biggest contingency of vulnerable and unsafe workers. These include domestic workers, farm workers, informal sector workers, casual workers, and migrant workers. It’s our collective responsibility to organise them and take up their workplace struggles to ensure that they have a right to stable and secure employment opportunities.

COSATU welcomes the progress the Federation has been able to achieve on the legislative front advancing the interests of working-class women at Nedlac and Parliament. These include the National Minimum Wage Act that has improved the wages of 6 million workers, in particular farm and domestic workers.  We are aggrieved by the large number of employers who are being allowed to defy it.

Maternity leave has been significantly improved with the Unemployment Insurance Amendment Act and the Labour Laws Amendment Act has provided for paid parental leave to help support fathers to play their role in caring for their new-born babies.

Parliament passed two (2) progressive gender-based violence acts in September 2022.  We need to ensure that all of society is aware of the provisions to protect women and girls from GBV. This includes training police and other relevant public servants.

The Federation urges the President to sign the Employment Equity Amendment Bill into law as it will help strengthen the existing employment equity provisions.

We urge the Ministry for Justice and Correctional Services to move with speed to table the Sexual Offences Amendment Bill at Cabinet and Parliament paving the way for the decriminalisation of sex workers.

Issued by COSATU      

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson) Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794