OPINION: Democracy a necessity for women empowerment and community upliftment

Nomi Nkondlo.

Democracy is a necessity for women empowerment and community upliftment.

The fight for democratic rule has proved to be a fight for a “voice”. Over time, nations have used resistance, passive or otherwise, to overthrow and bring change to a system of oppression, and a culture of silenced voices.

What then is the relevance of this democracy for local people, and local women in particular?

In communities where enjoyment of this democracy remain constrained due to a variety of societal ills experienced such as crime, hunger, unemployment, illiteracy, and so forth, democracy remains a necessity.

As a tool and platform to mobilise such communities freely, with no fear of intimidation, it remains critical to have a conducive space to usher change from the citizens themselves.

This is also true for women, where patriarchal socialisation (male-bias) of a woman from a minute level of a family is fraught with intimidation, imposed values of acceptance, suppression of a woman’s voice and culturisation of dominance among others. One of its glaring results in our communities is heightened gender-based violence, with gender-based violence as a reflection of this type of socialisation.

It breeds an unequal social structure; a discord in social and gender relations based on power concentration between one group (male) over another (female). It fosters uneven gender relations that perpetuate interpersonal, structural or institutional violence towards women. The implicit assumption of controlling women’s behaviour to gain dominion, in both public and private spaces, must be denounced.

This system of oppression cannot be resolved only through a macro-environment of country laws, policies of the state and its programmes, parading women executives and leaders – rather a fundamental change of the orientation of the very society from the family unit must happen.

It is in those individual households, family relations, peers at schools and other social groups that a recognition of the voice of a woman should start and be normalised. Importantly, it is for women themselves, individually and as a group, to be free and be freed to drive and lead their own journey of reclaiming and amplifying their own voice.

The renewed men and women desire to work together as equal partners in pushing back the social ills faced by these communities can only be realised, when fundamentals are in place.

One such fundamental is a democratic environment, in which all have a legal right to speak, engage, agree and disagree in a process to define, formulate, and choose solutions needed to realise better prospects of living.

When democracy is at work for the good of the community, it allows them to unearth their talent, intellectual capacity from within, and harness all efforts to a system of commune, social cohesion, as key ingredients of positive development.

Women are critical players in such an ecosystem, and so democracy and women empowerment are a prerequisite for sustained social and economic transformation.

The struggle for local economic development is interwoven with women empowerment, as the economic costs of social inequality are huge, and the whole of society bears such a cost. Democracy for women is democracy for all – Freedom for women means freedom for all. Malibongwe!

Nobulumko (Nomi) Degracia Nkondlo is a Gugulethu community activist and an ANC Member of the Provincial Legislature. Tomorrow, Friday March 8 is International Women’s Day.