Are things getting better for women in South Africa, are they getting worse or are they staying the same?
If things are getting worse, as patriotic citizens we should ask ‘why are they getting worse and what can we, as individuals and part of a collective, do to address the situation?’ If things are getting better for women, we should question whether they are getting better fast enough.
We must all agree that we still have a long way to go in the emancipation of women. Sexual violence against women and girls and rape are issues that remain a challenge in our society.
Poverty and poor living conditions have added to the vulnerability of women and an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections. The physical trauma of violence and sexual assault has left scars and unimaginable emotional damage on many women.
We need to encourage our women to make use of family planning services to prevent unwanted pregnancies and, when they do decide to get pregnant, they must be encouraged to use the free antenatal care services available.
Free health care for pregnant women and for children under six years of age was a major achievement but still more needs to be done.
The quality of care that is provided by these free services must be improved and the clinics need to be better equipped and well maintained. Far too many women still die after childbirth, particularly in rural areas.
However, since the system of reporting and investigating causes of maternal deaths was introduced, there has been a change for the better.
Another common cause of maternal deaths has, for many years, been infection after back street abortions but every nurse and doctor is now required by law to tell the provincial health department if they know of any woman who has died within six weeks of being pregnant and members of the public are encouraged to do the same.
The South African Constitution and its Bill of Rights are widely acknowledged as being among the most progressive and inclusive in the world today yet many of the social and economic rights of women are still restricted.
Women head at least 42 per cent of households in South Africa and in those remaining with double-incomes (where women often do the same jobs as men with less pay) the women usually carry the main responsibility of household chores and child rearing as well.
Let us stand together and assist each other in achieving our goal of a better life for all!