File picture: AFP
File picture: AFP

Ramaphosa praises women front-line workers fighting the pandemic

By Athandile Siyo Time of article published Mar 9, 2021

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Cape Town – In commemorating International Women’s Day yesterday, a special salute went out to the resilience and bravery of women front-line workers, who fight the pandemic as nurses, doctors, emergency personnel, police and soldiers.

The theme for this year’s day was #ChooseToChallenge and President Cyril Ramaphosa took the time to encourage and wish the women of the country strength and also pay tribute to those who succumbed to the virus.

Ramaphosa made reference to the Women’s Charter which was drawn up in 1994, that there can be no meaningful progress for women if society continues to relegate women to ‘traditional’ professions, occupations or roles, while it is mainly men who sit on decision-making structures.

“Since the coronavirus pandemic reached South Africa a year ago, the women of South Africa have played a pivotal role in the country’s response. We salute the resilience and bravery of women front-line workers, who worked to fight the pandemic as nurses, doctors, emergency personnel, police, and soldiers.”

Ramaphosa commended women life Petronella Benjamin, a nurse from Eersteriver who lost her life to Covid-19 just days before she was due to retire after 25 years as a nurse; Azalet Dube from Doctors without Borders who went into communities to raise awareness about the disease; Nandi Msezane who helped raise funds for food support in affected communities and helped to provide access to mental health support for the LGBTQI+ community and many others.

“Our experience of this pandemic has once more demonstrated women’s capacity to organise, collaborate, lead and achieve. Through their actions, they have demonstrated there is no such thing as ‘a woman’s place’.

“The women of our country still face many challenges. They are still more likely to be poor and unemployed than their male counterparts.

“They are still vulnerable to gender-based violence (GBV) and femicide. But on this day, let us acknowledge how far we have come as a society thanks to the role of women leaders, particularly in helping the nation through this pandemic,” said Ramaphosa.

Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez celebrated the day by visiting Sisters Incorporated and Athlone House of Strength (AHOS), which are safe houses funded by the department.

Fernandez said that women continue to be the pillars that hold up society and every person has a role in promoting the safety of women.

“As part of International Women’s Day, I call upon our sons, our brothers, our fathers, our uncles, our colleagues, and every other man in society, to stand with us in solidarity in our fight against all forms of violence and discrimination against women.

“GBV has become deeply entrenched in our society, leaving many people impacted by the accompanying trauma. We all need to commit to speaking up when we see acts of violence committed,” she said.

Anti-GBV organisation Ilitha Labantu said that the day represented a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change, and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their communities.

Founder Mandisa Monakali said: “We can all choose to challenge and call out to end gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women‘s achievements. Collectively, we can all help to create an inclusive society.

’’On this day, we choose to challenge the limited availability and shortage of safe shelter spaces and poor support in regards to limitations on available services for organisations working to eliminate violence against women and girls, we choose to challenge the official recognition of unpaid work and care that women contribute towards in their communities and spaces.”

Cape Times

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