Black women in South Africa faced discrimination on a number of fronts. They were oppressed by the apartheid government because they were black. In this way black women experienced the same discrimination and harsh treatment as black men. Under apartheid, black women were forced to live under a wide range of repressive laws that denied them freedom in a political, social and economic context. Black women experienced the humiliation of the pass, the lack of choice of where to live under both the Group Areas Act and the homelands policy of the apartheid state. They were treated shockingly by white employers and faced a future without any political representation. This political oppression on the basis of race led many women to join the struggle against apartheid.
They were also discriminated against on the basis of their gender. South Africa was and remains a strongly patriarchal society. In a patriarchal society men hold the positions of power in wider society and in the household. Men are dominant and dominate women by making the decisions and determining what the structure of society looks like. In this way, women had to fight a struggle against the power and dominance of men.
As a result, women in most homes were treated as second-class citizens. They were expected to clean, cook and look after children and they were expected to submit to the demands of their husbands. They had very few rights within the household. Often women were subject to severe forms of domestic violence and they had no recourse to any kind of justice.
Exhibitions in the classroom
Reading the past
"THE UNITY WE NEED IS PEOPLE'S UNITY. We need it all we need it here we need it now! : The emancipation of women is not an act of charity, the result of humanitarian or compassionate attitude. The liberation of women is a fundamental necessity of the revolution, the guarantee of its continuity and the precondition of its victory. The main objective of the revolution is to destroy the system of exploitation and build a new society which releases the potentiality of human beings, reconciling them with labour and with nature. This is the context within which the question of women's emancipation arises : ORGANISE FIGHT ON!"
Read the text above and answer the questions.
1. What does the author of this inscription mean by “the liberation of women is a fundamental necessity of the revolution.”?
2. What steps could you take to help build a society that is free of gender and racial discrimination?