YOUNG WOMXN ON TOP – SHATTERING THE GLASS CEILING - Sunshine Myende
The generation of women of 1956 took it to the Union Building in the fight against pass laws that were being enforced by the apartheid government. History has it on record that women felt passively represented by men in their plights especially the issue of carrying passes.
This generation of women felt that men wanted a gentleman’s agreement with then Prime MinisterJ. G. Strijdom administration when in essence a rock-hard approach was needed in fighting these historical injustices. Hence the profound message they carried “wathinta abafazi wathinta imbokodo”(you strike a woman you strike a rock) remains profoundly relevant to date.
The struggle and oppression of women predates any struggle and understanding of oppression. Men have always understood their deemed oppression in all respect but omitted consciously or unconsciously neglected the understanding the oppression and struggle of women.
To date Women never gave up the fight against the unmerited injustices that were being brought upon them. As this generation we have a responsibility to relentlessly fight the persistent and perpetual injustices faced by the women daily and the residual remnants and elements of patriarchy and fragile masculinity that we are facing.
The injustices faced by women (young in particular) include but are not limited to: The systematically exclusion from the mainstream economy and the triple oppression of women due to their class, gender, and race. It is crucial for this generation of young woman to ensure that we shatter the glass ceiling and allow young woman to be on top.
The former President of the ANC Women’s league (Winnie Madikizela-Mandela) profoundly puts it when she said, “These people must not test us, singayisusa noma kunini”. Men must stop testing the patience of women and actively participate in fighting against the ills that are faced by women daily.
Women have made great strides in society, but they continue to face challenges at the workplace these challenges include but not limited to the persistent need for women to prove their capabilities more than men who are presumed to be naturally capacitated and the need for women to feel safe at the workplace and to not be sexualised by men in order to get work and promotions.
The struggle and oppression of women predates most prioritized issues by Government and ought to be prioritized by Government.
Despite efforts by Government through various frameworks that include the Women’s Charter for Equality 1994, National Policy Framework for Women Empowerment and Gender Equality 2000 including the Strategic Framework for Gender Equality within the Public Service 2006 to mention few of these legislative frameworks ensure gender inequality in all spaces is addressed.
The legislative frameworks have tried to close the gap and with these particular frameworks we have seen women rising to senior positions and other strategic positions but even in those positions women have to continuously prove that they are qualified and capable of doing that particular job.
Shattering the glass ceiling at the workplace and allowing young women on top is in line with the tenets and ethos of the constitutional democracy that South Africa is. Despite young women having had access to these “top “positions they continue to face challenges of failing to realize their full potential and perform accordingly because of the constant doubt that is cast on them on their capacity.
The absence of a huge cohort of young women in management positions in organizations is a structural exclusion that suggests that women are seen through the lenses of being young and incapable. It is often suggested that young people do not have the required experience to execute certain duties, it can be argued that experience comes with exposure there is no way young women can gain experience if not empowered and given relevant exposure, young women are not going to wake up with experience.
Workplaces continue to define their competence and leadership in the traits that were stereotypically meant to exclude women young in particular.
It is crucial for this generation of young women to be on top and shatter the glass ceiling for upcoming generations, with the famous words of Mam Charlotte Maxeke “When you rise bring someone with you”. As we are rising to the “Top” we are definitely bringing other young capable women so that woman are on top.