Building towards a world that is gender-balanced is not the responsibility of women alone. Our collective call for gender-balanced workplaces, relationships, places of worship, media coverage, and public knowledge is about realistic, social, political and economic growth for men and women. It is a reaffirmation of our historic demands for women’s representation in all areas of society.
The women’s movement has always said that when patriarchal consciousness dominates the means of production, the products will only advance the interests of male domination. The “woman” problem in our society is sustained by patriarchal power and ownership of the social, economic and political means of production. It will not be until a gendered consciousness holds dominant social structures to account that women will be truly liberated. This cannot be achieved without transfers of power and a #BalanceForBetter.
In our society, where patriarchal consciousness dominates the judiciary, the police, the education system, the family structure, the media, and all pockets of life where major decisions are taken - women’s experiences of sexual, emotional and psychological violence will continue to be taken lightly and/or dismissed. When you expect a patriarch to do their work, they do as they do at a societal level: they will defend patriarchy by silencing women’s narratives. The #BalanceForBetter theme calls on society to reconsider how gender imbalances are reinforced and reproduced.
Women in all corners of South Africa live with the fear of being accused of lying about their trauma. To be a woman requires a constant justification of one’s existence.
Most recently, the reports of Bongekile Simelane’s (Babes Wodumo) experiences of gender-based violence show us where we are as a society. Women have to go to the extent of recording their traumatic experiences for fear of being accused of lying. Yet still, patriarchy fights back with historic tropes of “the morally unrestrained woman,” which have served to shut women into multitudes of silence for centuries. Babes Wodumo is not alone.
We must move from a constitutive representation of women in numbers, to a substantive repositioning of women’s concerns where it matters. We have an obligation to mainstream gendered consciousness and perspectives into all areas of social, political and economic production, and to hold those in leadership positions accountable through co-ordinated management of gender responsive planning, budgeting, monitoring, evaluation and auditing systems.
It is time for women in all areas of South African society to retaliate against patriarchal legislation, policies, economic structures and hierarchies, customs and traditions, and popular discourses to #BalanceForBetter.
* Bathabile Dlamini, MP, is the Minister of Women.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.