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Does the ANC Women’s League exist?

The ANC is the ruling party. The ANC has the power to enact positive change through effective leadership and policy. Yet, South Africa is still one of the most dangerous places to live for a woman. At least three women are raped every minute in South Africa, and many more are sexually assaulted, harassed, verbally abused and live in homes where domestic abuse is more common than a hot meal on the dinner table.

At the same time women in South Africa have theoretical access to more legal rights than many women across the globe. The Bill of Rights recognises women as equal citizens and they are protected from discrimination in the Constitution. The Sexual Offences Act makes it a crime against the State to rape or sexually assault a woman. In theory, women have the law firmly behind them.

It’s clear that theory and practice simply don’t match up. And how can they when ordinary women are often economically dependent on men, so their only choice is between abject poverty and a beating? How can they when the job of ensuring women’s access to justice has been left to the dedicated few NGOs who work their hearts out to ensure that if they can’t protect women, that at least women have a comforting place to go when they have been a victim of violence.

Violence is not the only type of deprivation that women in South Africa face. Women are paid less than men across all economic spheres. Economically, women remain an impoverished category in South Africa. They are left with the majority of the care work for the sick and the elderly, which in South Africa is an extremely time-consuming job.

In summary, South Africa isn’t a great place to be for women. Sure we can look out of our windows (if we have windows) at the great views, the pretty mountain in the Cape, the fynbos etc. But scenery just doesn’t cut it. It is almost like standing outside of a sweet shop being tempted by the freedoms we’re supposed to be living and knowing that today, we just won’t make it inside.

So now I’d like to know where the state defenders of our rights are. They’re jolly good at making statements but what are they actually doing? Why aren’t the ANC Women’s League members holding the ANC men in check? Why aren’t they holding them responsible for their actions and statements? Why do they not participate more vocally in discussions? Are they just tokens?

Why do we need ANC Women’s League members when they’re just puppets for the ANC?


  • Jen Thorpe

    Jennifer is a feminist, activist and advocate for women's rights. She has a Masters in Politics from Rhodes University, and a Masters in Creative Writing from UCT. In 2010 she started a women's writing project called 'My First Time'. It focuses on women's stories of significant first time experiences. Buy the book on the site or via Modjaji Books. Jen's first novel, The Peculiars, came out in February 2016 and is published by Penguin. Get it in good book stores, and on