COSATU Women’s Day Statement 2023

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) hails all working-class women on Women’s Day, 9 August.  South Africa marks this important day in our history when more than twenty thousand (20 000) women marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 in protest against the extension of pass laws to women.  The Federation joins the nation in not only paying tribute to these women who altered the trajectory of the nation but also to the millions of women today who remain the backbone of the working-class communities and families. 

This year’s Women’s Month is celebrated under the theme Women’s Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment: Building Back Better for Women’s Improved Resilience”, focusing on South Africa’s efforts to achieve meaningful progress towards gender equality by 2030.

Although strides have been made in the emancipation of women on many fronts, the nation still lags in many critical areas.  GBVH is endemic across the fabric of society with women and children subjected to devastating acts of criminality.  

COSATU commends the promulgation into law of the Criminal and Related Matters, the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) and the Domestic Violence Amendment Acts in 2021.  These laws are significant weapons in the battle against gender-based violence and sexual harassment (GBVH), including at the workplaces with provisions requiring the listing of all convicted sex offenders on a national registry, the barring of sex offenders from positions of authority and significantly increasing the powers of the police to intervene in suspected cases of GBVH.  Whilst welcoming these progressive laws, it is critical that government ensures that key state officials are properly trained and resourced to ensure their implementation.

The Federation welcomes the Victims Support Services Bill which will help ensure survivors of GBVH are provided safe spaces at Police Stations, healthcare facilities and courts to ensure their protection and dignity.  It is critical that the Department of Social Development move with speed and table this progressive Bill at Parliament.  Once this Bill is enacted into law, it will be critical that sufficient resources are allocated to the SAPS, courts and hospitals to provide these safe spaces for survivors.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development needs to expedite amendments to strengthen the Maintenance Amendment Act to ensure that defaulting partners are compelled to pay monies and support owed to their former partners and their children, including through garnishing orders and credit bureaux blacklisting.

We are pleased with the impact that the National Minimum Wage has had on 6 million workers, in particular 900 000 domestic, 800 000 farm and millions of workers across the hospitality, retail and cleaning sectors who are overwhelmingly women.  Whilst welcoming this progress, more needs to be done to ensure equal work for equal pay.  The proposed amendments to the Companies Amendment Act requiring listed companies to publicly disclose their wage gap will be a useful step in the right direction and begin a culture of naming and shaming abusive employers.  We look forward to seeing this pathbreaking Bill being tabled at Parliament shortly.

COSATU and its Affiliates will be working with the Department of Employment and Labour to help enforce the implementation of the Employment Equity Amendment Act across workplaces.  The recent Employment Equity Report highlighting that 29 years into democracy 62% of senior management positions are held by White and largely male counterparts needs to be a wake-up call for all properly adjusted persons. 

The Federation will table at Nedlac legislative proposals to increase the levels of protection and support for mothers, during and after their pregnancies. 

Whilst much progress has been made in the struggle for women’s emancipation, much remains to be done.  We cannot afford to reduce these battles to platitudes and slogans.  They require concrete action and accountability.

Issued by COSATU

For further comment please contact:

Matthew Parks

Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687