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South African women feel they lack full equality with men and freedom to reach their dreams and aspirations

Yesterday was the International Women’s Day (IWD), a day set aside to commemorate the struggle for women’s rights across the globe. For 2017, the campaign theme Be Bold For Change, is a call to help forge a better working world – a more inclusive, gender equal world.

Gender inequality has been a serious topic of discourse for several decades. While some progress have been made, women in several countries still feel left out.

In most parts of Africa, a lot has changed. Rwanda made history recently by becoming the country with the highest number of female parliamentarians in the world. In Angola, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Madagascar (for women only), Uganda and Zambia, March 8 is a public holiday, a show of support for women’s rights. Amid such laudable support for equality, South African women do not feel there is equality in their country, the most advanced economy on the continent. 41 percent of women in the southern African nation do not agree that they have full equality with men or freedom to actualize their dreams like men.

In a report by leading UK research company Ipsos Mori, on the state of gender equality in different countries, it was found that nine out of ten women believe in equal opportunities but 40 percent of women say they personally do not have equality. The report also revealed that one in five men and women think women are inferior to men, while one in four men and women say they are scared to speak out for equal rights.

Out of the top 15 countries where women feel they do not have full equality with men and freedom to reach their full dreams and aspirations, only one African country was listed – South Africa.

In 2015, the United Nations Special Rapporteur Dubravka Šimonović who was in South Africa from December 4 to 11 of that year to get firsthand information about violence against women and girls, concluded, following her stay: “The violence inherited from the apartheid still resonate[s] profoundly in today’s South African society dominated by deeply entrenched patriarchal attitudes towards the role of women in society which makes violence against women and children an almost accepted social phenomenon”.

However, the rate of involvement of women in leadership positions in South Africa shows otherwise. Women are increasingly getting more involved in decision making in the country, a sign that there is a need for women to be Bold for Change; step up and speak out more on behalf of other women.