On the occasion of the March 8 International Women's Day celebrations, the ANC Women's League salutes all women of the world. We extend our greetings particularly to the women of the front line states who have struggled and suffered along with us to bring the situation in our country to where it is today.
As we proudly user in the 21st century, we join women from all over the world who continue to fight tirelessly for the total emancipation of women. We will not abandon our commitment to what we see as our responsibility to fight against poverty, war, AIDS - all issues which tend to affect women and children more than anyone else.
This day comes at a time when the people of our country are vigorously fighting for true and meaningful transformation from apartheid to a non-racial, non-sexist, non-discriminatory South Africa. This day comes at a time in which we are finding that that transformation is not as smooth as we hoped it would be: our people continue to die in the senseless carnage meted out by forces who still destabilise our communities.
We acknowledge the leading role played by women in this process, but further challenge and urge women to be more visible in the decision-making structures at all levels to defend the gains we have made during the transition period. We need to ensure that the gains we have achieved are irreversible in view of the rise of conservatism worldwide.
We urge women not to rest until elections at local level take place in May 1996 in KwaZuluNatal and the Western Cape. This is fundamentally an area belonging to us, and we must ensure that the structures at that level deliver to South African women. This is where a further fate of women will be decided, as was done in October 1995.
The wave of violence which continues to engulf South Africa affects mostly women and children. There is also psychological and emotional violence of which we are victims. although this impacts on men as well. We have witnessed the tragic slaying of a young woman medical student, allegedly by her husband. We have seen the agony of a father who wants to adopt his child born out of wedlock, and surely he has a right to do that? We need to defend our children by bringing about constitutional changes which will protect them during their lives.
This is why women in our country have taken it upon themselves to be part of the peace structures presently existing and monitored by an independent peace committee.
The women of the ANC Women's League marked international Women's day this last weekend by convening a most successful summit, at which amongst other important decisions a collective decision by our 14 regions committed us to address a number of the most women-unfriendly laws in our country, namely:
We applaud the work done by our women in producing a document which contains the detailed demands of South African women. We will ensure that those demands become a daily preoccupation of the government of national unity.
We also take this opportunity to announce our 40th anniversary celebration of the Women's March to the Union Buildings in 1956. We want that day to be one of the most memorable at the close of the century as we gather where our heroines stood forty years ago to commence the struggle that has brought us where we are today. We will honour Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Sophie Williams, Ray Alexander, Fatima Meer, Anna Silinga, Bertha Gxowa to name but a few dynamic women leaders we pride ourselves in, women of salt!
We wish to remind our government that we are the custodians of the Gender Commission. We will decide for ourselves how best to utilise the Commission for Gender Equality now provided by the interim constitution. We, the women of South Africa shall judge any future government in this country that has a claim to adherence to democratic principles by its ability to develop, empower and affirm disadvantaged groups, and central to this will be women.
In conclusion we appeal to all South African women's organisations to prepare themselves for the 40th anniversary of the march. We recognise that Afrikaner women suffered and died under the British and that they, too, as women have suffered. At this point in our history we as the women of the African National Congress are stretching out our hands in friendship across the divides that tore our nation in the past. We want to see Mrs de Klerk, Mrs Tereblanche, Mrs Viljoen join us on that day to cement the unity of South African women as we close this century.
We still say
N W Madikizela-Mandela