JOHANNESBURG - South Africa was last month named the world's worst destination for solo female travellers in a survey of 50 of the most-visited countries.
The country was ahead of Brazil, Mexico, and Russia where women did not feel safe walking alone at night and were more likely to be victims of femicide.
The “Women Danger Index” said only 25percent of the women surveyed in South Africa felt they were safe walking alone at night. It said women travelling to South Africa are often warned not to hike, drive, walk or move about alone.
Instead, they are advised to generally behave conservatively.
A few years ago, two women were harassed and chased around one of the country's biggest taxi ranks in central Johannesburg simply because a group of men found a miniskirt worn by one of them too distasteful for their liking. Now really!
Soon after the survey was released last month, Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane moved to reassure tourists that it was safe to travel to South Africa.
Kubayi Ngubane said women's safety remained a top priority for the government. But the damage had been done.
Women had been told to be extra-careful about how they behave in South Africa. This is the last thing the tourism industry needs after recovering from the disastrous visa regulations blunders of erstwhile Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba.
It is the latest indication that women are on their own.
Last year, the government even acknowledged that gender-based violence and femicide had become a national crisis.
The justice system has also not been kind to us, resulting in the #TotalShutdownMovement marching to the Union Buildings to call for an end to gender-based violence and for the government to host a summit to root out femicide.
Despite President Cyril Ramaphosa leading a national summit against gender-based violence in November last year, little has changed.
Earlier this month, the body of a 41-year-old woman was discovered in a shallow grave in her 28-year-old boyfriend's shack in Vlakfontein, Johannesburg.
The gruesome discovery came as the country marked Women's Month, celebrating the brave women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to demand the end of pass laws.
However, despite the myriad challenges that include unemployment facing us as modern South African women, we have continuously refused to be victims.
We have earned our own bragging rights to making strides to move South Africa forward.
We broke new ground in the 2019 general elections with 46percent women in the House of Assembly and provincial legislatures and 50percent women in the Cabinet. All the speakers in the national and provincial legislatures are women.
But there is more to be done.
Gender parity has remained elusive in political party leadership, because there are few women premiers.
Just yesterday, data from the Department of Labour’s Commission for Employment Equity revealed that women still only occupy 22.3percent of the country's top management in the private sector.
In the public sector, their presence at the top is 33 percent.
This (lack of) parity in the boardrooms is not too different from a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers released last month that showed that in the year to end April, women chief executives made only 3.31percent of JSE-listed companies.
The report titled "Executive directors: practices and remuneration" said following Maria Ramos’ retirement in February 2019, there were no female chief executives in the JSE Top 40.
It said the pay disparities between men and women chief executives remained a huge problem, citing that there was no sector in which overall female executive directors were paid more than men. It said the largest pay gaps were in healthcare, consumer discretionary and technology.
Women’s Month has come and will end shortly. But we still have a long way to go to achieve what the women wanted during the famous 1956 march. The ball is in our court to change the narrative on women parity.