A “Light of Hope” for Women in South Africa

The dawn of democracy in South Africa brings with it the recognition of the historical activism of women on 09 August 1956 when they protested against the unjust segregation laws during the Apartheid era. This day is a celebration of women’s political and economic emancipation, and it is true that post this declaration and recognition, women began to claim their space in society as inclusive and value-adding members of the family and as citizens of this country.

As our democracy matures and we evolve, Women’s Day signifies a deeper psychological emancipation from our sometimes archaic cultural, and social belief, it is a release from the stereotypical conceptualisation of women as housewives and nurturers of kids and male breadwinners. The concept of celebrating women gives credence to women’s capability and a deep level of psychological emancipation by claiming their space,and allowing them to become whoever they chose to be in their roles as professionals, mothers and as homemakers. This psychological emancipation is the fundamental source of their fulfillment and hence they can find that balance spurred on by an inner voice that says you got this!!! The celebration of Women’s Day is the recognition of women’s positive mental evolution and strength that enables them to break barriers and achieve their dreams.

Coupled with the celebration of our democracy and women’s emancipation is the promulgation of legislation that corroborates the status of women, yet women still remain bound by the shackles of stereotypes subjecting them to inequality, inequity, gender-based violence (GBV) against women. The plague of injustice against women in our country is still prevalent. Research in South Africa indicates that more than 15% out of every 100 000 women each year fall victim to GBV perpetrated by men. Until and unless the prevailing cultural and ethnic ideologies, like patriarchy that governs how societies think, does not evolve, or is not eradicated, we will not achieve a just and safe society for all. This re-imagining of women’s value begins right in our homes. If we as women do not begin to instill in our sons (and daughters) the importance of respect and non-violence, we will be perpetuating this social belief that men should dominate and women should be subdued and accept anything imposed on them.

We need to employ mechanisms and media tools to effect social behavioral change and awareness. In light of this, the South African Hindu Maha Sabha has launched a critical awareness programme entitled #LightOfHope. This outreach project is aimed at creating awareness of violence against women and children; the impact of silence on the abused; psychological and mental health challenges and not forgetting the celebration of the potential and strength of women to obliterate these injustices. This can occur by providing a platform to the inflicted and affected. This campaign is running for the entire month of August on the SAHMS website. It is a call to all women and men to add their voice of support to women who often suffer in silence and fear in a video recording to be flighted on the SAMHS Facebook page. The Shree Sanathan Dharma Sabha will also augment this ‘light of hope’ campaign by engaging experts in these related fields in a webinar on Facebook. This is aimed at informing and encouraging women to reach out for help when required, reinforcing the message that “you are never alone in your crises”.

In addition, we as a nation have been inflicted with a spectrum of traumatic incidences that continue to have a tremendously negative impact on our psychological and physical health. The people of our country are subjected to political and societal instability, food insecurity, economic challenges, an increase in criminal activity across our country, and worse still gender-based violence, poor health and even death of our loved ones due to the Covid19 pandemic. We are constantly in search of coping mechanisms to help us weather this storm. Our Hindu organisations are actively and vociferously urging all to reach out for assistance when in crises, there is always a solution to any crises, by reaching out, you may be providing a that lifeline to another, whilst healing oneself.

Add your voice to the #LightOfHope campaign and make a difference this Women’s Month.