Women's Day is a public holiday commemorated every year, on the 9th of August. On this day back in 1956, over 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the South African pass laws that required black South Africans to carry a “pass”. This “pass” document was a tool to maintain segregation and control during the apartheid era. We can’t deny the progress that’s been made in terms of women’s rights since the 50s. However, gender inequality sadly still exists, and we can still see the results of this inequality in our communities every day.

Gender-based violence

Gender-based violence (GBV), according to the United Nations (UN), is “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women”. This includes not only actual acts of violence, but also threats of violence, coercion and arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

GBV is unfortunately still prevalent, especially in South Africa, and has been on the rise partially due to the COVID-19 lockdown regulations. Along with GBV, femicide rates have also spiked during this time, leaving many girls and women feeling unsafe in their homes and communities.

Now, more than ever, communities and governments need to take a stand against this unacceptable behaviour which is unfortunately still normalised in many households.

Access to education

Despite there being an increase in women entering the working world as employees as well as entrepreneurs, many women still face unique challenges in building a career for themselves. Often, these challenges begin in school.

Issues such as high rates of harassment and abuse in school deter many girls from getting the education they need. Other issues include lack of access to female sanitary products and teenage pregnancy.

Gender stereotypes shape young girls’ beliefs from a young age, often informing what they’ll study and if they’ll drop out or not. Without the solid foundation of a good education, finding sustainable employment is challenging.

Financial barriers

In the workplace, many women face discrimination, harassment and unequal pay. Movements raising awareness around complex gender issues such as the wage gap are on the rise, however there’s still a general lack of understanding surrounding these issues by employers and employees alike. You can learn more about women’s rights in the workplace here.

The women who marched back in 1956 showed bravery and stood against oppression and discrimination. So, in order to respect their legacy, it’s important for us to stand up to the issues which women are facing today. Let’s make this Women’s Day a day to start the conversation around such issues, and encourage everyone to participate in levelling the playing field.

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