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Declaration of the Progressive Women's Movement

8 August 2006

We the women of South Africa representing women from different sectors, some progressive political organisations, the trade union movement, civic organisations, the religious bodies, business, professional organisations, NGOs, CBOs, different spheres of government, the young, the women living with disabilities, the old and the women veterans of the struggle - coming from all the provinces of South Africa gathered in Mangaung, Free State from 5 to 8 August 2006 ,to launch a Progressive Women's Movement in South Africa. We were honoured to share this historic gathering with women from Angola, India, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

We salute the pioneers that paved the way for us, we remember the gallant heroines and heroes who rose against colonialism; those who protested the pass laws; those who took united action against unjust labour laws; those women who under severe conditions of poverty , oppression and exploitation, created homes, educated and developed and produced leaders of yester year and today.

In recalling the history of SA and the triple fold struggle characterized by class, race and gender oppression saluted the struggles which led us to democracy and paid tribute to our democratically elected government and gave recognition to the quantitative and qualitative achievements of our Democracy.

We acknowledge the Democratic state for providing the space which ensure the deepening of the struggles for women's emancipation, by ensuring:

  • Access to decision making levels especially the political, the judiciary,
  • Access to resources like clean water, sanitation and electricity,
  • Access to education and health,
  • Creation of an environment for the empowerment of women through a progressive constitution and the enactment of gender sensitive legislation as well as engendered policies,
  • Establishment of programmes, laws and the development of institutionalized national machinery.

We take cognizance of the fact that these advances improved the quality of life and status of women and laid the foundation for the changing of power relations between men and women through the Constitution adopted 10 years ago.

We note that Democracy provided the voices of women space to be heard on matters of concern to their lives, their wellbeing and that of society.

We recognized that there are qualitative changes in our lives particularly the attitudinal changes in the value structures within families and society.

We recognize that there are major challenges that women still face as women due to non institutionalization and legislated programmes, mechanisms and processes that ensure parity in society.

We assert that many women have not as yet tasted the fruits of our liberation particularly working class, rural, and poor women. Women in our society continue to be brutalised by the patriarchal system that is re-enforced by regressive elements of our culture and customs.

We note:

  • We note that the patriarchal system is the ideology, beliefs, values and practices underpinning the organisation and structure of society, resulting in unequal power relations between women and men and the subordination of women in all spheres of life from the private sphere, mainly the family.

It is spread throughout and continuously reinforced by the whole society, including through education, work, religion and the media, so much so, that it is assumed as natural, god given or part of our culture.

We further note that despite gains made, women continue to suffer in the following;

  • violence against women particularly domestic violence and child abuse
  • Subordination of women
  • The feminization of poverty, underdevelopment and unemployment.
  • Sexual harassment at the workplace and in farms.
  • Objectification of women in society especially in and by the media in particular.
  • None recognition of women's work in the GNP
  • Casualisation of women workers.
  • Hundreds of thousands of other women are exploited in sweat-shops or are in casualised insecurity. The impact of this has been devastating on the lives of millions of South Africans, particularly working class blacks and women.
  • That, whilst customary laws were introduced, women are still faced by patriarchal problems.
  • That whilst our economy grows at an impressive rate, women are still relegated to the entry level and remain in the main in the informal
  • economic sphere. Those women in general do not own the means of production and still remain at the lowest rung in the job industry.
  • That Business relegates women to casual work and renders them vulnerable to retrenchments, outsourcing and causalisation.
  • That access to basic services whilst available, are inaccessible to debt ridden and blacklisted households and deny women access to basic needs such as home ownership and higher education dependent on loans.

We resolve

  • To fulfill the decision taken by the women of South Africa at the historical Malibongwe Conference held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands in January 1990 and launch a Progressive Women's Movement under the theme AGE OF HOPE :WOMEN MARCHING FOR EQUALITY DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE.
  • That the Progressive Women's Movement operating within a patriarchal society, will operate on the principle that women's rights are human rights and these rights are indivisible and interrelated.
  • The objectives of the PWM shall be to :
    • work in partnership with women in all sectors for social transformation.
    • pay particular attention to the development of young women and to encourage their inclusion on all progressive structures.
    • take the struggles of women to higher levels and consolidate the gains already achieved in pursuit of the establishment of a truly democratic, non racial, non sexist and prosperous South Africa.
    • Strengthen existing progressive Women's Organizations and the role and responsibilities of women in all national progressive organizations.
    • Promote gender equality , and strengthen the gender machinery within government , the legislatures and civil society.
    • Ensure that the commitments made by our government on the rights of women are implemented.
    • Deal with the concrete concerns of women and grounded in the aspirations of women in general and the working class women in particular.
    • That the platform of action will address issues which unite women in action and include the Beijing platform of action, social upliftment, Crime and human Trafficking, access to information through the translation of all government documents into all languages including brail and other issues as may be identified by the PWM.
    • Pay special attention to the developmental needs of the most vulnerable women in our society in general and rural women in particular.
    • We commit to eradicate poverty and unemployment
    • support women affected and infected by HIV and AIDS
    • Document the history and work of women.
    • That the structure of the PWM shall at the core include the most marginalized women in our society , with a national structure which is
      representative and inclusive of all progressive sectors of our society.
    • That the PWM shall embark on a process to solidify the relationship of the progressive women of South Africa with each other.
    • seek common areas of action with progressive women's organizations globally.
  • We pledge to support women from all walks of life in our quest for unity and sisterhood.
  • We salute all progressive men in their quest to support the emancipation of women.
  • We call on all others to join the struggle and the democratization and transformation of our society.
  • We call on all Progressive women in our country to join hands and build a strong and enduring women's movement.

The Age of Hope is upon us and we must deliver to make the tomorrow of women a better and brighter one.