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LIVE! From South Africa: Blog Entry 7

November 18, 2008: The Women of South Africa

By: Masum Momaya, Curator
Submitted: 11/21/2008

I can’t believe the Forum is over!. Here I am, writing my last blog entry from Cape Town!

Throughout the year in Women, Power and Politics, we have featured stories of women’s political participation from many places around the world. Until now, a notable absence has been coverage of women in South Africa, who have a rich history of organizing, in response to but not limited to the struggles against colonization and later apartheid.

One activist at the Forum reported that a recent demographic survey of girls throughout South Africa revealed that 80% of them wished they were boys due to all the problems that disproportionately plague women and girls: Increasing poverty and homelessness, the AIDS pandemic, gender-based violence, unemployment, climate change and environmental destruction, the rising costs of food and fuel, the lingering effects of colonization and a growing lack of accountability by the South African government.

In spite of all of this, I saw organizing, mobilization and resistance at work – during the lunch break on the second day of the Forum, AWID attendees joined local activists for a protest organized by the One in Nine Campaign, a coalition of 26 South African organizations working to end violence against women. Protesters marched on behalf of 1 in 9 women who report being raped in South Africa, towards greater prevention and more accountable responses by the state, communities and families for gender-based violence.

In addition to putting their bodies on the line, as they have done for centuries, women in South Africa (SA) are among the most creative and progressive in using information and communications technologies (ICTs) in their organizing efforts. Many groups employ text messaging as a most effective tool for reaching out to and mobilizing members. Additionally, feminist organizations in SA are resisting internet controls put in place by corporate and national security interests, fighting to keep websites from being censored, emails from being under surveillance and the internet from being used to track, stalk and attack women. Local activist Natasha Primo reminded us that ICTs offer the possibility of many speaking to many – and the ability for women to formulate, control and express what and how they want, which is one of our core beliefs at I.M.O.W.!

No mention of women’s strength and resistance in South Africa would be complete without paying some tribute to musician Miriam Makeba, affectionately known as “Mama Africa,” who passed away on November 9. Described as “a singer with an activist’s heart,” her song Pata Pata had many of us dancing and singing in the aisles. A celebration of the activism that has transpired and strength for the difficult work ahead.

It’s been a privilege and pleasure to share some moments from my last few weeks in South Africa with you. At the risk of sounding clichés, my engagement with using technology to reach out and raise awareness has been truly empowering for me, and I hoped you’ve been able to feel some of the power of women organizing internationally.

In sisterhood,

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