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Report back: Women's Socio-Economic Rights

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS co-hosted a discussion with the ICJ highlighting the gendered impacts of social and economic violence in South Africa

On 14 September, CALS was very fortunate to be joined by our friends and partners for an event marking Women's Month 2019 by discussing women's socio-economic rights and their violations in our country. 

Special thanks must go to our keynote speaker, ICJ Commissioner and retired Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro. Justice Mokgoro emphasised that the basic needs of life must be accessible to all if every other constitutional right is to be realised – and that poverty and violations of socio-economic rights are felt most keenly by women. She commended human rights defenders for the work they have done to draw attention to this and called on us all to move forward from advocating to acting. She emphasised the importance for women to tell their own stories and for everyone to work towards changing those stories. 

"The law doesn't solve our problems. We do.

We use the Constitution as a tool to solve our

problems, to protect, to act" 

– Justice Yvonne Mokgoro


The address was followed by a series of presentations from a panel of women working in the area. Tumelo Matlwa and Amelia Rawhani-Mosalakae from CALS began by discussing the gendered impacts of our current marriage regime. They argued that since antenuptial contracts are costly, they are inaccessible to most people in our country which can have a devastating impact on women. Many financial institutions, for example, do not seek consent from spouses married in community of property before extending credit to their partners. This is just one example of how life can be more expensive for people living in poverty. 

We also heard from Fatima Shabodien from the Raith Foundation who discussed sexual harassment in the social justice sector. Fatima began with a roll call of leaders in our sector who have been accused of sexual harassment recently and explained the problems with allowing them to resign before facing investigation. Finally, we heard from Nonhle Mbuthuma from the Amadiba Crisis Committee on her experiences as an activist protecting her community's right to their own land. 

Thank you again to all our panellists, organisers and audience members who engaged the panel and made the event possible.