Women are human beings even when they find themselves in shacks or transit camps

Friday, 9 August 2013
Abahlali baseMjondolo Womens' League Press Statement


Women are human beings even when they find themselves in shacks or transit camps

Today women of the shack settlements just like women of Sandton, Sea Point and Umhlanga Rocks will be commemorating Women’s Day. We are human beings and we are women where ever we find ourselves. We are still women in the shacks and we are still women in the transit camps and in the streets. We believe it is shack women’s responsibility to bring about change in their own lives, in our communities and in our society as a whole.

We know that there is a long history of women being at the forefront of the struggles of the poor in South Africa and around the world. Women’s Day is held to celebrate the women’s march on the Union Buildings in 1956 under the slogan Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo. We celebrate this march. But we also celebrate the forgotten struggles of poor women like the women who led the struggle in Cato Manor in 1959.

But we will not be going to listen to the politicians who will be telling the people to trust them and to obey them. These politicians have never been in solidarity with the poor. They just want to use us as ladders to get wealth and power for themselves and their families. But now they are even attacking women in parliament for being women instead of discussing politics with them. We’ve seen this in the trade union movement too. All ideas and strategies can be discussed freely but it is never right to attack a woman for being a woman.

Abahlali women have rather decided to empower ourselves with political education in leadership this Saturday 10 August 2013. The theme of the day will be “Women can make a difference" since we know that there are many challenges facing women in our society. As part of the University of Abahlali, we will join hands with the Abahlali Men’s Forum in a political school. The Abahlali Men’s Forum is a space that has been created for men to discuss the role of men in everyday life and in struggle. It is a space where men can talk to each other about how men can work towards respecting the equality and dignity of women so that we can build an equal and just society where everyone’s dignity is respected. Families and communities must be safe spaces where all people are respected and cared for.

Women are leaders in their own homes and in their own right. But we believe we need to be conscious about working to empower ourselves in our struggle, in our communities and in our society. We also know that the challenges faced by women are political. They are promoted by inequalities and gender insensitivity. We also know that drugs, communicable diseases, unwanted pregnancy and rape have terrorized our communities. These problems can only be solved when women in shacks unite and take their place in our cities and in our society. Taking our place in the cities and in society will mean women will have a louder voice especially on issues that affect them, their families and communities. Just as our movement demands equality between classes we are also demanding equality between genders. Just as the poor are saying to the rich ‘talk to us, not about us’, and ‘nothing for us, without us’, women are saying the same to the men.

The movement is linking the Women’s League to the Men’s Forum because we believe that women and men need to really discuss the problems that are facing our society. It is clear that some men in our society have lost respect for the dignity of women. We need women and men to stand together in respect of each other. We need to put a stop to rape and other forms of violence against women in our society. It is a disgrace in a society claiming to be free that women cannot walk freely in our own streets. It is a disgrace that some men can’t accept that women have the same right as men to take leadership roles in society. We need women and men to struggle together for a society in which there is equality and dignity for everyone.

The movement has questioned both Abahlali men and women to look at their role in violence and discrimination against women. We are asking our members to look carefully at whether or not they are really acting against these things. We are asking our members to look carefully at the times when they have been silent.

We are organising women and building structures in order to strengthen our power and voice. We are aiming to resist all forms of injustices, corruption, inequalities and women exclusion. If we are successful we will be able to confront evictions, state repression, corruption, unemployment, exploitation and domestic violence without fear and be listened to. If we are successful we will be able to confront the spread of HIV/AIDS and all other transmittable diseases in our families and communities.

The University of Abahlali baseMjondolo Women’s Day political education workshop will take place at Surat Hindu Association Building, 137 Dr Goonham St (Prince Edward St), Durban.

It will start from 9:00 a.m. and continue to 15:00 p.m.


Zandile Nsibande Abahlali baseMjondolo Women's League on 074 7675706
Busisiwe Mdlalose Abahlali baseMjondolo Women's League on 073 5014200