Black girls should be next in line, but not battered and killed

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Photo by Bashir Olawoyin

The recent unanimous recommendation in the National Assembly for Tsakani Maluleke to be appointed as the next Auditor-General of South Africa (dare I say first female and black); together with the crowning of Miss SA Shudufhadzo Musida couldn’t have come at a better time.

In a country where Gender-based violence (GBV) is widespread and impacting on almost every aspect of life, Tsakani and Shudufhadzo’s milestones are worth celebrating. This is given the spike of GBV reported cases since the lockdown restrictions commenced in late March.  Disheartening, really!

I am fortune to be amongst the very few women who has not yet experienced GBV. And this is only to a certain extent. I have not yet been battered and bruised by a man and I have not yet been raped. I say “yet” because it always feels as though every woman in South Africa is standing next in line to be violated. This is the magnitude at which GBV is deeply entrenched in our country.

Sometime in June this year, my car was stolen. Luckily for me, I was not there when the theft happened. I know as a matter of a fact I wouldn’t have lived to tell the tale. One morning, I went to work in one of our offices in Sunnyside, Pretoria. I parked my car outside a building at about 08:45 am and at approximately 11:45, there I was, asking anyone who cared to listen if they had seen a white Toyota Etios parked just at the entrance of the building.

Fast-forward to seeing footage of the actual incident, a car parks next to mine. A male figure gets out of the passenger side of the other car. Walks around as if to inspect it (my car), next thing he opens the passenger front door. He is in, and then off he goes. Car gone in just a space of 5 minutes. I wonder how long it takes to kill a woman. 5 minutes could be long enough.

I remember watching the security footage and how grateful I was. Grateful that I was nowhere near the car when it was stolen. Like I have said, I don’t think I would have lived to pen my experience for you.

It has become so much of a norm that we are accustomed to hearing about dozens of dreadful stories of women fighting for their lives or even dead, due to GBV. I may have not been physically violated; but this experience really shook me. It is for this specific reason that I contend Tsakani and Shudufhadzo’s great strides are timely and certainly worth making noise about.

Another timely coincidence is the Women in Construction Summit to be hosted by the Ministry of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation on the 5th of November. The Summit aims to reach out to women in construction and offer support that will strengthen and consolidate women’s effective participation in the field.

During her Budget Vote in July, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu called for enhanced support for women who are in the fields of construction.

“Women have been building homes and homesteads for generations. We want to help them do that now, and build homes of value which they can hold as assets and pass on to their children. It is our purpose to bring our resources and institutions to help people help themselves and to create wealth with their own hands,” Minister Sisulu said.

The Department of Water and Sanitation has many women of this calibre, who are able to create their own wealth with their own hands. There are brilliant engineers who have and continue to spearhead mega water projects across the country in an industry which is predominantly white and male.

As a woman, a black woman, I am celebrating with Tsakani, Shudufhadzo and many other women who continue to be exemplary and validate black girls’ dreams. My only hope is that the narrative of the #MeToo and #AMINext campaigns will slightly be different for the next generation. Black girls should all stand in line, but not be battered and killed. They should be in line, alive and fulfilling their dreams.

By Lebogang Maseko- Maseko is a budding social media practitioner and works for the Department of Water and Sanitation. She writes in her personal capacity.