At The End of This Woman’s Month…


At The End of This Woman’s Month…

Since the 1st August, our country has celebrated Woman’s Month. Essentially then, in the words of the Government, over the past month we have paid “tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.” (see

According to the contextual notes, “National Women’s Month programme is based on the ongoing interventions across the work of government, civil society and the private sector within the context of the national priorities outlined by government.”

Thus, “Women’s Month allows us to gauge how far we have come in transforming society, particularly the transformation of unequal power relations between women and men. While also focusing on and addressing gender oppression, patriarchy, sexism, racism, ageism, structural oppression, and creating a conducive environment which enables women to take control of their lives.”

In reflecting on this context, several observations can be made. The first is that when we consider the role of women in “the ongoing interventions across the work of Government, civil society, and the private sector” it is clear that without the preponderance of women among the nursing and related disciplines in our healthcare system there would simply not be a system to speak of. In vast numbers, women in healthcare are also central, formative, irreplaceable – like the nuclei of cells and atoms.  Facilities, doctors, specialists, patients, decision-makers, regulators and legislators are ineffectual without the women that form the corps of professional medical services. We would do well to remember this as we plot courses towards strengthening healthcare tomorrow.

However, when we consider the rest of the motivation for the celebratory month as quoted above, namely, to gauge how far we have come in transforming society, principally with regards to our treatment and protection of women in South Africa, our national scorecard is unhealthy. Gender-based violence much, much too often remains an instance with which we contend; glass ceilings remain, there is still work to be done to clear the paths of women to make a full contribution to communities society, and the nation. That said, in healthcare, a number of women have reached eminence in medical research, executive management of key institutions, leadership positions, and elsewhere. The job though is nowhere near done.

We must continue to endeavour, to recognise the contributions women have made and fight discrimination, violence, obstructions, and systems of patriarchy, violence, poverty, so that our sisters, mothers, aunts, and nieces can be who they wish to be. This is not a fight limited to a month – to a single ‘thank you’ – nor is it sufficient to mute this struggle at the end of August. The struggle waged against apartheid, was ongoing – the march in 1956 was an instance in a wider struggle waged against discrimination by women. Like their struggles, this struggle for the personhood in full expression of women continues daily, weekly, monthly. Everywhere we are across this country. Everywhere our women are denied their personhood.


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