Good afternoon and thank you for the invitation to address you today. I am Felicity, the Programme Head for the Sustained Dialogues Programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.
Tusimame Wanawake is launching at an important moment in our history. I would venture to say that we are living in a time that is dangerous for both women and refugees.
In the work that we do at IJR, we see the legacies of colonialism, apartheid and slavery. Women had particular experiences of these oppressive systems that have not often been told. In all of these systems, women were moved around like material things, not seen for who they are.
We have had women on the move: women were brought as slaves or forcibly removed throughout our history since 1652. Sadly, on this International Women’s Day, we are not only living with these legacies, but we are also facing new challenges.
Women in post-colonial societies are more likely to experience domestic violence and GBV. Women in our society are more food insecure; and bear the brunt of having to do domestic work. Women are more likely than their male counterparts to be unemployed, and those who are employed are more likely to be paid less than men.
Women migrants in South Africa face all of these vulnerabilities and more because they are in a foreign country, facing a hostile population and an intransigent government.
Our studies have shown that foreigners from African countries are the least trusted by South Africans (52%).
In addition to this, South Africans are averse to allowing foreigners from African countries access social security – 35% oppose African foreigners from accessing government services.
37% say that they are likely to prevent African nationals form opening businesses in their areas and 36% oppose people from Africa moving into their communities. In a similar vein, 35% of South Africans say that they oppose African foreigners from accessing jobs.
While the majority of South Africans are more open to African foreigners ( 2 out of 3 people), there is a significant number of people who see people from Africa as an existential threat. Unless and until we deal with inequality, these trends will continue.
But there is hope.
Organisations such as Tusimame Wanawake will not go gentle into the darkness of oppression. We look forward to working together on combatting the inequality and violence that women refugees face. We always need to keep hoping.
“Hope is not resignation; it is a commitment to continue the struggle when things seem to warrant surrender. When hope flares, it allows human beings to overcome monstrous difficulties; it allows people to defy common sense and confound strategists. Hope, experiences in the extreme, like faith and love, is miraculous” (Danielle Santiago).