30 August 2016
Note to editors: The following is an extract from a speech delivered today by the provincial spokesperson on Education, Hon. Safiyia Stanfley, in the debate on the Women’s Month held today in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature in Kimberley.
Women’s Month is meant to be a month of celebration, a month where we reflect joyfully on the many meaningful contributions made to our province and our country by its mothers and daughters, sisters and wives. But instead of being a month of celebration, Women’s Month was a month of mourning in the Northern Cape.
We mourn six-year-old William Duiker from De Aar – beaten with rocks in a brutal act of retribution against his sister. His murder shows that women are still not free from the constant threat of domestic violence and violence from intimate partners. In fact, 52% of women are murdered by the same men who claim to love them. Yet despite these high levels of domestic violence and abuse, less than 2% of police stations are compliant with the prescripts of the Domestic Violence Act.
We mourn twenty-two-year-old Sipho-Sihle Nontshifa from Kagisho, whose body was found hanging from a tree in a nearby cemetery. Her death reminds us of the report released in December 2015 by Statistics South Africa which warns that the Northern Cape has the highest prevalence rates of suicide, a state of affairs which is attributed to substance abuse and gangsterism. It is a state of affairs which is certainly not helped by the fact that the mental health hospital has been under construction for the past ten years.
We mourn six-year old Kutlwano Garesape from Jan Kempdorp, who was stabbed with a broken bottle while trying to defend his mother from a would-be rapist.
We mourn the innocence of every woman and child who was raped during this month. We have a reported rape rate of 80, which is unacceptably high for a society based on the values of human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights.
We mourn the lives of those who remind us that we have yet to achieve the full realisation of the rights of women. The rights to dignity, to safety and to economic freedom remains but a democratic dream for far too many of us. We take one step forward only to fall two steps behind again.
The Democratic Alliance has secured a historic victory by ensuring that those who refuse to pay their papgeld will be blacklisted. After we have taken this step forward towards realising economic freedom for women, we fall two steps behind again as the current government refuses to increase social grants at an increment above inflation. While food price inflation is expected to be more than 8% this year, the average increase in social grants was barely more than 6%. My colleagues in the National Assembly have therefore proposed budget neutral measures which could have seen an additional R2.2 billion allocated for social grant beneficiaries. We could have taken another step forward in securing economic freedom for women who rely on social grants to sustain their families.
And we must take this step, for a report released by the Department of Women concludes that “not only are women more vulnerable to poverty, but when they are poor they also tend to experience deeper levels of poverty than men”.
We must take this step, because social grants have been shown to have a positive impact on the lives of those who receive it. More than 90% of child grant beneficiaries are women and a study done by the Centre for Social Development in Africa has shown that the grant has empowered women in very poor communities. UNICEF further concludes that the grant has a positive impact on school attendance while significantly reducing risky behaviour such as substance abuse and criminal activity.
Yet we are forced to take two steps back as our proposals to protect women from degrading levels of poverty were rejected by those who prioritise their own luxury instead. The same minister who describes the social grants as “adequate”, for example, spends R11 000 a night on luxurious hotel accommodation for herself.
We are forced to take two steps back as women struggle to find employment in an economy that is rapidly shedding jobs everywhere except in the DA-led administrations. Nationally, unemployment levels among women are up to 6% higher than among men.
If we want to see the rocks of our society prosper, we need to ensure that women’s rights are protected to the full.
How can we ensure that we continue to take steps forward, towards the realisation of the rights of women, without taking any steps back?
To address the constant threat of sexual violence and domestic abuse, we need more Sexual Offence Courts and Thutuzela Centres which are properly funded with a sufficient number of adequately trained staff. We need better training of police officers and sufficient funding of SAPS, particularly of the units investigating domestic abuse and sexual violence.
We need more social workers.
We need to fund shelters for women who must flee abusive homes.
To address economic inequality, we need a social security network which is capable of protecting the poor.
We need policies and programmes which establishes an environment which is conducive towards the sustainable creation of decent jobs. We need a supportive environment where business wants to invest, grow and hire more people. Where we govern, the Democratic Alliance has implemented the necessary measures and we have achieved the lowest unemployment rates in the country in the municipalities we lead.
Let us implement the measures needed to protect women from violence, to advance their dignity and to realise their rights. Let us do what is needed so we can come back next year and say – this month has not been a month of mourning, but has been a month of glorious celebration.
Provincial Chairperson for DAWN
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