In commemoration of National Women’s Day on the 9 August 2010 Abahlali Women held a mass prayer to unite ourselves and to build our strength for the next phase of our struggle. In our discussions on that day it was noted that the mainstream media only gives platforms to privileged women in senior positions to discuss women’s issues and that nothing is said about poor women in shacks. We are supposed to remain silent while those who benefit from the system are the only ones to discuss its strengths and weaknesses. This is unacceptable to us.
We also felt that it was not enough just to pray for change but that we also need to take action to hold government accountable for our continued oppression under this democracy.
It was therefore proposed and agreed to that the women themselves will organise and lead a protest march to voice our concerns about our plight and the demands that we are making to the government. We felt that it was necessary to take this action now as August is Women’s Month.
It was also noted that after numerous protest marches held by Abahlali that no results were forthcoming from Government. Therefore we have some of the same demands as we have expressed in previous marches.
Our main demand for this march is for the full restoration of the full dignity of all poor women in South Africa.
We also have the following demands that can give life to our main demand:
• An immediate end to all evictions. We note that while everyone suffers in an eviction women are the main victims.
• An immediate agreement to provide basic services to all shack settlements including enough water, electricity, toilets, refuse collection and lighting. In the meantime there must be an immediate end to all disconnections of community organised electricity and water connections.
• An immediate agreement to upgrade all shack settlements where they are and to negotiate any moves when upgrades are not possible.
• An immediate end to amathini [transit camps] as they undermine families, our safety and our dignity.
• Serious action to end all kinds of women abuse ranging from rape to domestic violence. This means that there must be fair and respectful policing, proper lighting and safe transport for the poor. An end to biasness of the law and women exclusion.
We are aware that for these demands to be met the government will have to ensure that:
• A law is passed that will ensure that the social value of urban land is put before its commercial value. There should be no more shopping malls, office parks and golf courses until everyone has a decent house. People have to count more than money.
• Serious action must be taken to end the biasness of the law towards the rich and the powerful. Poor people in general and poor women in particular must have the same right as anyone to use the law and the courts. Access to justice must be free.
The final demands will be made at settlement level by collective means.
Abahlali Women also note that Eskom has dedicated this week as the Electricity Safety Awareness Week. Part of their campaign is to get rid of all self organised connections of electricity. But no one is asking as to why the homes of the poor are not electrified in the first place. Eskom, like Durban Electricity, does not ask as to why poor women in Kennedy Road, Siyanda, eMagwaveni, Umlazi etc must weep all the times after shack fires that destroy their homes and often kill people. If the government will not electrify our homes then we will electrify them ourselves. We will not back down on this.
The March will take place on 27th August 2010 at 08:00-15:00. It will start at Botha’s Park and proceed to the City Hall.