Treatment Action Campaign Womxn’s Day Statement

9 August 2020, Johannesburg – The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) Womxn’s Sector joins everyone in South Africa in celebrating Women’s Day 2020. We also take this opportunity to pay respect to the tireless work that our womxn predecessors made before us, epitomized by the womxn of 1956. The work that they did to break down stereotypes inspires us daily.

We acknowledge, however, that there is still a lot to do in 2020. The evil spectre of patriarchy still hangs over us not only in South Africa but all over the world. Young womxn are still sidelined from issues that affect them. As an advocacy organization working on HIV and broader health systems strengthening, we worry that adolescent women are still at the top of infection rates, with their infection rate being almost four times that of their male counterparts. The COVID-19 pandemic has opened up a window to social ills in the country and we repeat the call we have made throughout our 22 year existence for the state to uphold the promise of the Constitution and ensure protections of vulnerable populations in particular.

We note with concern that Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights are still not easily accessible to womxn who are accessing health care at public facilities. This has been accentuated by COVID-19. According to the Stop Stockouts Project campaign report issued in May 2020, 33% of contraceptives were out of stock in that month. Contraceptives stock outs are a recurring theme in the country since prior to the lockdown and expose young women to unwanted pregnancy.

Gender Based Violence

We note with concern, as highlighted every year that the continued social ill of crimes against womxn continue and agree with President Ramaphosa in his assessment of them as “another epidemic that is raging in our country” during this time of COVID-19. While the Emergency Response Action Plan Report on GBV continues strides to remedy this, a lot more needs to be done to remedy this scourge. Examples abound, including against us as womxn in TAC.

Joyce Molala* (not her real name) was kidnapped and raped for 2 days in Lynwood. When she was released, she went to the Mamelodi police station to report. She wasn’t helped. She was sent to Lynwood where the incident took place. She was then sent from there to another police station. Then a fourth. She was only assisted there after she demanded to see the station commander. “We need the justice system to change the way they treat victims of violence. The treatment we get at the police station makes it hard for us to report such cases and access justice”, she said.

Maria Koko’s (not her real name) sister was murdered in 2018 and the perpetrator was only arrested this year after 2 years of pain and threats from the perpetrator. “It was 2 years of hell, pain and injustice despite repeatedly reporting this torture after the pain that man caused us,” said Maria.

Kwanele! We cannot just celebrate women without recognition of our rights to safety, health and life. We demand to be celebrated with respect and recognized as human beings. We are tired of only being recognized when it is International Women’s day on 8th of March and in South Africa on the 9th August only. Women’s rights have to be celebrated every day, month and year.

Similarly, we note the continued ill treatment of community healthcare workers, a critical cadre of the health workforce. Recently a group of CHWs mainly comprised of elderly women were shot at in Bhisho for demanding that their concerns be addressed by the provincial Department of Health. On an occasion such as today, we note the difference between words celebrating us and actions such as these.

For more information:

Sibongile Tshabalala (National Chairperson) – 0744716318