Free access to information will make women proactive beneficiaries in our local communities
Thousands of community members in our township called Lebogang in Mpumalanga blazed the municipality building, passing cars and a community hall claiming service delivery a few months ago. Our provincial government lost 82 days last year due to service delivery protests. How can this be when South Africa has one of the highest gender quotas in Africa? Our constitution is hailed as one of the most progressive in the world but whose voices is this constitution giving? You don’t have to look far; the picture tells it all.
It is clear that our local government is still grappling with a grave crux to transform our country into a workable democracy. During the May 2008 Xenophobic attacks where a man was burned alive instead of dealing with the isolation that South Africans faced due to apartheid, they refuted it was “third forces” and with the service delivery protests they added another term and maintained it; “political ambitions”.
Local and provincial governments are expected to be training grounds for women politicians but it seems that our government is concerned with reaching gender equality at national level. In the 16 years of our democracy, our community has seen male Mayors, Municipal Managers and Councilors and no sign of women in sight even though women understand social issues better because we are empathetic human creatures and can exercise intuition.
To sustain this gender quota means those with political networks will serve without knowledge and the deepening curse of poverty and inequality will continue to increase opening new wounds of nepotism and ready made jobs for the connected few. The result is obvious, the service delivery dampening our communities over and over again.
Mpumalanga has the highest number of political killings in South Africa and this makes it a tad hard for communities to openly launch peaceful protests or lobby relevant authorities so that the government can be more responsive to the needs of the community and most of all for women politicians still left with human integrity to influence laws and policies at local level but they have become talk shops and are only visible during the election campaigns.
As women in our community, we were brought up in a system that made us believe we were inferior thus we became victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The solution is to make the information readily available and free for women and girls. To introduce them to the opportunities and hold workshops where women will come together instead of working in isolation.
Being a part of the online community allows me to learn, to gather the strength needed to exercise my right as enshrined in the constitution, to discuss with other like minded women, to source funding for women in our community, to ask volunteers around the world who have dedicated their lives to women emancipation. I no longer feel isolated and fearful and that’s one of the biggest challenges I overcame and I am starting to believe that I am my community’s voice.