Abahlali baseMjondolo Women’s League Holds Mass Prayer on National Women’s Day

10 August 2010
Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement in S.A Women’s League Press Statement

Abahlali baseMjondolo Women’s League Holds Mass Prayer on National Women’s Day
Our Oppressors Have Struck a Multitude of Rocks

As part of its annual women’s day celebration the Abahlali women’s body decided to hold a mass prayer at the St Paul’s Cathedral in Durban central on National Women’s Day. In opening the mass prayer ceremonial candles were lit as a symbol of our invitation to the Holy Spirit and the spirits of our ancestors to bring us strength, courage, unity and solidarity with all the women of South Africa, but especially with those who continue to suffer attacks on their human dignity in a democratic South Africa.

Abahlali women acknowledge that women and children are the most vulnerable group in our society; they are vulnerable in their homes, in their neighbourhoods, streets, and workplaces, even in their organisations. They are vulnerable wherever they find themselves. Women are the first hand victims when it comes to eviction. As it happened before in our history evicted women become the victims of rape and crime as well as exclusion. They are left without choices of their own.

But Abahlali women also acknowledge the courage and strength of women. Women are holding families, communities, organisations and movements together across the country. Fortunately enough the majority in our movement are women and they hold a 60% majority both in membership in general and leadership. The very same women are homeless, unemployed and often household heads and single parents. Yet they still have to play a leadership role in our movement.

Abahlali believe that a movement without a women’s structure is like a non existing movement.

The Abahlali women’s league decided to hold a prayer instead of holding another rally or march for the reasons that all these kinds of efforts to secure land and housing in our cities and rural homes remain unattended to by the authorities. Women remain exposed to shack fires, living on flood plains and without basic services. Women in farm and rural communities remain in the brutal hands of farm owners. They remain living an undignified life because they have not earned the respect of the authorities and the general public. They do not count in this country.

Despite remaining in the forefront of every march and protest our demands have fallen on deaf ears. We therefore decided to retreat from the streets in order to strengthen ourselves for the big struggles that lie ahead. As part of our way forward we as Abahlali women have vowed to hold a women’s protest march to intensifying our struggle against the non-delivery of services, the continuing commodification of land, the law and decent housing, the failure to treat the women with respect and dignity and the failure of the state to address all issues affecting women with urgency.

For women to be successful in this struggle a call was made for unity, for education and awareness campaigns, for tolerance and for more work to build solidarity amongst women. As Abahlali women we are committed to provide leadership at all levels in our movement.

Women’s day is held every year to celebrate the 20 000 women that marched on the Union Buildings in 1956 chanting “Wathint’ Abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo!” That march was in protest at the pass laws that tried to exclude black women from their right to the city. The struggle for the right to the city continues today. We defeated the Slums Act. But we still have to defeat the transit camps, the tiny leaking RDP houses in the human dumping grounds, the fires and the lack of basic services in the settlements. We still have to defeat the priority that is given to the financial value of urban land over its social value. We still have to defeat the priority that is given to projects for the rich, like stadiums, over the much more urgent need for decent housing for the poor.

The women’s march on the Union Buildings was one step in the struggle for justice. We celebrate it but we also recognise that it is the responsibility of our generation to take the next steps. We also celebrate the neglected history of struggle by poor women. We celebrate the long history of brave struggles of poor women in Durban like the protests against the beerhalls in 1929 and the protests against beerhalls and evictions from Cato Manor in 1959. Our mothers and grandmothers have a rich history of struggle which we and our daughters and granddaughters must now take forward. Our struggle will continue until every women is safe, free, respected and able to have her fair share of the land and wealth of this world where ever she may find herself.

We send our greetings to our comrades in the Poor People’s Alliance and to struggling communities and movements everywhere. To our oppressors, all those who want to keep us in our place – and locked out of the cities, the economy and the political discussions and decision making – we affirm that our spirits will not be broken. You have struck a multitude of rocks.

Halala Izimbokodo!
Malibongwe Igama Lamakhosikazi!
Wathint’ Abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo!

For further information and comment please contact: Mrs Mdlalose 073 501 4200, Ms Mkhize 073 730 9648, Ms Zungu 078 402 4382