Shut down dept of women, urges Phumzile Van Damme at #TotalShutDown march

Women's rights must be taken seriously by all spheres of government, DA MP Phumzile Van Damme said during an intersectional women's march in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Thousands of women across the country kicked off Women's Month with a #TheTotalShutDown march to raise awareness about gender-based violence.

"[I am] here not only as a woman, but as a member of Parliament to support what is a really important initiative.

"I am also here to take what is being said back to Parliament and speak loudly about women's issues, which have always taken a back seat," Van Damme said.

"There's firstly not a big enough budget given to the women's department. It must be shut down. It does not have any function. We believe it must be shut down and women’s rights must be ingrained in every department and municipality so that it takes centre stage."

SCROLL: #TheTotalShutdown: Ramaphosa a no show as some women remain at Union Buildings

Earlier this week, the Department of Women announced that August 1 would be regarded as a day of mourning for victims of gender-based violence, and that it would join activists in their call for the violence to stop.

The Department of Women Children, Youth and People with Disabilities was created by former president Jacob Zuma when he took office in 2009.

Van Damme was not the only woman present at the Cape Town march who felt that the government had not done enough to protect women from gender-based violence.

A crowd of what appeared to be around 800 women, carried signs bearing thought-provoking messages and images of victims of gender-based violence. They handed over a memorandum to a representative from the Department of Justice when they arrived at Parliament.

Member of the organisation Mom's Move for Justice, Lesley-Anne Wyngaard from Hanover Park, said that the memorandum addressed issues concerning various government departments.

"We need justice, we need SAPS and social development to remedy the situation. We want SAPS to do complete investigations and we want social development to make sure our communities are safe," Wyngaard said.

"From the justice system, we want the courts to be operational and [to] stop the unnecessary postponements or delays. The misplacement of dockets is always making the process much longer."

Margaret Neethling from Women's Road House, who teaches self-defence to young women, emphasised the importance of the march.

"We feel that women need to take back their power and marches like this bring awareness to what is happening to women in this country. We are in solidarity with all women who have suffered or are suffering any form of abuse," she said.

In Durban, hundreds of women showed up at Curries Fountain to raise awareness.

One woman, organiser Orefile Malope, joined the march even though her home had been broken into in the early hours Of Wednesday morning.

"I had to be here at 07:00 and I woke up to find everything opened in my house. But because I am part of the [KwaZulu-Natal] planning team – we worked too hard to miss this day – I filed everything and sent statements to the police. I am here so that my daughter doesn't have to do this," Malope said.

Twenty-one-year-old Mangosuthu University of Technology student Zolile Khumalo was commemorated by her cousin Zama Mthiyane at the protest.

Khumalo was allegedly shot dead by her ex-boyfriend Thabani Mzolo at the Lonsdale residence after the couple had broken up in May.

"As women, we need to put an end to this. Men must stop ill-treating us," Mthiyane said.

Women are sick and tired of fighting this fight, protester Bongi Shozi added.

In Pretoria, the march got off to a rough start when taxi drivers asked marchers to move from the old outcome depot, which is now used as a taxi rank in Marabastad.

However, organisers remained firm and said that they would not be intimidated, and women made their way to the Union Buildings uninterrupted.

One of the organisers Goapalelwe Phalaetsile, said the march was formed by ordinary women who came together against the oppression of women, femicide and economic inequality.


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