5 Issues South African Women are Facing this Women’s Month & Beyond

Each year on the 9th of August, South Africa celebrates the diverse group of women who marched against racist Apartheid laws in 1956. As we commemorate the heroes of the past and continue to fight for our futures, we are reminded of our present realities. As the women of 1956 taught us, our fight for equality should not be exclusive. And as this pandemic is showing us, our struggles have been the same if not worse than ever. As Women’s Month is ending, here are some of the issues women in South Africa are facing.

1. There is a very visible pandemic.

Gender based violence has been the visible pandemic in South Africa for a long time. In September last year, President Ramaphosa unveiled R1 billion action plan to combat gender-based violence. He also said that those who commit violent acts against women and children should not be allowed bail.

We are yet to be updated on how successful these initiatives have been. There are still instances where the police are failing to protect women against their abusers. Women and girls are still raped by men, murdered by men – or both. With the recent unbanning of alcohol, people fear that gender-based violence incidents may likely increase.

2. The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been severe.

We have seen the economic effects of this COVID-19 pandemic. People are losing their livelihoods because of it. For too many, their salaries are being cut. Many small businesses are closing. Because of this people can’t put food on the table.

This pandemic has also left many vulnerable to poverty. In South Africa, women are the breadwinners. Women also contribute about 50% to the GDP but are more likely to be unemployed and underpaid. Now imagine the impact this pandemic has had on women’s finances.

3. Female frontline workers are at risk.

Caregivers, nurses and teachers are more likely to be female. Healthcare workers are working harder than they ever have. Teachers have to work extra hard to control children’s often unruly behaviour.

Nurses and teachers are more susceptible to contract COVID-19 as they come into contact with many people. They are also working under stressful conditions. Who is looking out for their well-being?

4. Period poverty persists.

Something I have learned this year is that sanitary products are a luxury to some women and girls. A 2018 study showed that 30% of South African girls miss school due to a lack of access to menstrual products. During this lockdown, I become anxious just going to a shop while others cannot afford such basic necessities.

5. Men misunderstand what feminism is.

As soon as yet another woman is murdered or raped, #MenAreTrash would likely be trending on Twitter. It’s not long until #NotAllMen trends where men are quick to defend themselves.

Instead of hearing women out, they make it about themselves. If a man is the victim of intimate partner violence, these same men bemoan the fact that feminist activists are not as angry. Many African men believe that feminists hate men or want to be men.

This year has been tough.

I’m sure it has been a difficult year for everyone. This pandemic has re-emphasized what an unequal society we live in. To see how many people are losing their jobs is heartbreaking. The levels of corruption in my country are infuriating.

It’s disgusting to see how the death of Breonna Taylor or the shooting of Megan thee Stallion has been turned into memes. It’s scary to see how many young women in South Africa are murdered for no reason.

These issues remain beyond this Women’s Month in South Africa.

Lockdown in Uganda: Solutions in a Time of Crisis

On March 31st, the Ugandan government announced a nationwide lockdown and curfew to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Clare Tusingwire, Girl Up Initiative Uganda’s Programme Director, has continued to support our communities during this difficult period.

Read our interview with Clare to learn about the impact of the lockdown on the lives of women and girls, and what Girl Up Initiative Uganda (GUIU) is doing to help.

1. What is daily life like in your community during the lockdown?

COVID-19 has made the lives of many living in Kampala extremely difficult, particularly in the deprived slum areas where GUIU works. While the government is distributing food to the most vulnerable families, not everyone is receiving the handouts.

Families are improvising every day because they do not have enough savings to sustain them. In the very poorest households, people are eating porridge made of cassava flour mixed with water and salt. For many, this is the cheapest starch available. 

2. Do you have any individual stories to share?

One story that particularly struck me was from a mother I counselled. She told me that she was feeling despondent because she used to be able to work to provide for her children. Now, she is struggling to provide a daily meal for them because her income stream has dried up. She told me that she lets her children rest and read their school books while she completes the heavy household chores. She hopes this will reduce the children’s hunger as they wait for their next meal. When she later received one of our relief packages, she was so excited.

3. What is the specific impact of COVID- 19 on girls and women in Uganda, particularly those living in urban slum communities?

Girls’ education has been significantly disrupted since the closure of schools. This is further exacerbated by increasing incidences of GBV as men are under more mental and economic stress.

As we know from other crises, girls and women are the most vulnerable.

As the incidence of GBV increases, there is a risk that some girls might never get the opportunity to return to school to complete their education. Parents usually save for fees over time, and there is likely to be a shortfall of money since livelihoods have been disrupted due to COVID-19.

4. Can you describe Girl Up Initiative Uganda’s response to COVID-19?

GUIU is reaching out to the girls and the families we support through our Survive & Thrive Fund. Two weeks ago, we started distribution of ‘family relief packages’ for the families of the at-risk girls we work with to enable them to survive. These packages contain food, soap, and sanitary pads to help families stay healthy and fed. We have already served 550 families, and aim to reach a total of 1,500 families.

Distributing the packages has also been critical as it give us the opportunity to check-in on and counsel the girls enrolled in our programmes in person. We are also sharing information about a 24/7 tollfree number (0800200600) where people can report cases of abuse or ask questions about COVID-19.

5. What do you think the long-term effects of the COVID-19 crisis will be on the rights of women and girls?

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, girls and women face the risk of backsliding and regression in terms of achieving gender equality and women’s rights.

The longer the lockdown continues, the more girls and women will lose their freedom to speak out. Girls will be unable to access safe spaces and programmes, such as our Adolescent Girls Programme.

More girls will be at risk of early pregnancy. They will also be more vulnerable to abuse from older men who offer to provide pads, food, and school fees in exchange for sex (‘sugar daddies’).

6. Do you have any advice for those who are currently experiencing lockdown?

We must tirelessly continue to raise awareness of COVID-19 by reminding our programme participants and our own communities to keep safe, keep healthy, and wash your hands.

As my team emphasised in our recent Ray of Hope podcast episode, we must balance our fears of COVID- 19 with positivity. Listening to the news can increase anxieties, so we need to be reminded that life will get better. There will be life after COVID-19.

You can find out more about Girl Up Initiative Uganda through our website and by following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

3 Gendered Impacts of the Coronavirus Pandemic

The World Health Organisation officially classified COVID-19 as a pandemic on 11 March 2020.

While the full impact of this pandemic cannot be fully articulated yet, evidence from previous global crises indicates that the impacts of disease outbreaks are not gender-neutral.

Crises such as pandemics and natural disasters can exacerbate already existing gender inequalities. Successful efforts to address and mitigate the consequences of the pandemic will require considerations of its gendered impacts.

Here are 3 possible gendered impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Increased Burden of Care

In many societies, women and girls are responsible for the majority of domestic work and caregiving responsibilities within the family. According to estimates, women work (both paid and unpaid) 30 minutes to one hour more per day than men.

With schools closing and turning to online learning as a measure to limit the spread of the disease, women may have increased responsibilities in caring for their children and their education. Many will also have to manage a full-time job at the same time.

The traditional caregiving role of women also goes beyond the home. Women account for the majority of health care workers in many parts of the world.

Globally, 70% of the health care workforce are women. More than 90% of health care workers in the Hubei province in China, where the virus was first identified, are women.

As such, women are at the forefront of the fight against the disease and risk exposing themselves, as well as their families, to the virus. 

2. Lack of Access to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services

During disease outbreaks, sexual and reproductive health services are not a common priority, as resources go towards dealing with emergencies. 

However, a number of organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have stated that reproductive health care, including abortions, are essential services that should remain available during emergencies. 

According to the WHO’s recommendation, sexual and reproductive health care should be available regardless of a woman’s COVID-19 status:

“Women’s choices and rights to sexual and reproductive health care should be respected irrespective of COVID-19 status, including access to contraception and safe abortion to the full extent of the law.”

The consequences of lack of access to sexual and reproductive health care services can be devastating, as previous disease outbreaks show. 

During the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the maternal mortality rate rose by 70% as maternal health clinics in the region were forced to close.

Marie Stopes International explain that in the 37 countries where they operate, COVID-19 is causing delays in production and delivery of condoms and contraceptives, They estimate that this can lead to 11,000 pregnancy-related deaths, 2.7 million unsafe abortions, and 3 million unintended pregnancies.

3. Increased Risk of Gender-Based Violence

Countries in every corner of the world are seeing an increase in reports related to domestic violence – from India to France to the United States.

In Singapore and Cyprus hotlines have seen an increase in calls of 33% and 30%, respectively. Argentina has seen a 25% increase in domestic violence-related emergency calls since the start of the lockdown.

In a webinar about gender and COVID-19, UN Women’s Anita Bhatia highlighted this grim reality:

“Domestic violence is what we’re calling a shadow pandemic… We are asking for shelters to be designated as essential services [during COVID-19] and for police to receive additional gender-sensitive training.”

As the global economy struggles through the pandemic, gender-based violence can exacerbate financial issues. Violence against women and girls costs about 1.5 trillion U.S. dollars globally. 

These are just some of the many possible impacts of the current coronavirus pandemic related to gender. While authorities attempt to stop the spread of the virus, they cannot ignore the secondary impacts of this outbreak. 

Fighting for the lives of those infected must remain a priority. But deaths caused by gender-based violence, unsafe abortions, and childbirth also need to be considered. Disease outbreaks and global crises tend to exacerbate existing gender inequalities. The gendered impacts of COVID-19, then, must be an integral part of current and future efforts to address this pandemic.

International Women’s Day in Latin America

On this International Women’s Day in Latin America women march, and then they strike.

Micaela. Pamela. Brenda. Guadalupe. Jordana. Octavia. Agustina. Ingrid. Fátima. Angie. Manuela. Doris. Adriana. Luisa. Ana. Luz. Jesenia. Mónica.

These are just a few of the women and girls who were killed in Latin America in 2020 – a region where there is a new femicide every two hours. There were 1206 registered femicides in Brazil in 2018. In Mexico, there were 1006 registered cases last year. In Argentina there were 68 registered femicides so far this year. It’s time for it to stop.

According to Reuters, “Femicide claims the lives of 12 women a day in Latin America which is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide globally but 98% of these killings go unprosecuted.”

Women in Latin America are tired of seeing a new femicide in the news every day.

They’re tired of being afraid and angry all the time. They’re tired of worrying about their safety, of having to check in on their friends, of being alert at all times because they’re not safe in their homes. 

All eyes will be on Latin America this International Women’s Day. Women all over the region are marching this Sunday to demand justice. And on Monday they’re planning to strike — they will stay home from school, work and university and they will avoid making purchases. The goal is to show people what the world would be like without them.

Illustration with the words 'Silencio Nunca Mas'.
Illustration by Laiza Onofre for the International Women’s March in Mexico. See more at undiasinmujeres.mx

Here are some things you can expect to see: 

If you aren’t in the region and want to join them from abroad, like I’ll be doing, you can show your support on social media. There will be plenty of photos, videos and illustrations circulating mainly on Twitter and Instagram. You can also find threads like the “hallada” test, where women searched on Google their names with the word “found” (hallada) and realized they share their names with women who were killed. 

As the feminist movement in Latin America continues to become more powerful and influential, the pressure on governments to implement policy changes grows. I’m excited to see these women speak up for themselves and each other. They broke the silence and now they’re unstoppable.

This International Women’s Day let’s support women in Latin America.

There is a War Against Women in South Africa

Content note: this post contains references to rape.

It is sad and enraging how women’s bodies and lives don’t seem to matter in South Africa. It’s even sadder and even more enraging how women’s bodies and lives don’t seem to matter, at all, in this world.

Recently, two 19 year old women were murdered in the space of two weeks. These are just the women I know of. One of the girls, Jessé Hess, attended my university. The other girl, Uyinene Mrwetyana, attended another university also based in this city. But these are just the women I know of.

I thought to myself, “how does this continue to happen?” Then I remembered that I live in South Africa and femicide is normal here. I wanted to be angry but I am done being angry. I am done speaking about the problem. I am just tired of this BS. I am tired of wondering if I am next.

I hope that these women and their families will get justice. The accused have been arrested. But as per usual, the justice system takes it’s time to convict, especially in cases with violence against women.

Despite the “progressive” constitution in South Africa, that should include everyone, men continue to violate women. It does not matter how rich or beautiful you are, it could happen to you. Even next to a police station or in the comfort of your home.

I never thought I would say this but I am terrified of birthing and raising children in this country. I thought I would be more terrified of bringing a daughter into this world but I am even more terrified of bringing a son into this world. You can nurture someone with all your love but what if it just in their nature? This is what many seem to imply.

When I was in the ninth grade, a male classmate told me that I was the reason men hit women. This was just because I did not want to answer him and his friends’ questions. It has never affected me before, but now that I am out of school it haunts me. I am not in contact with him but I am sure if I were to confront him about it, he probably would have forgotten about it.

What my former high school classmate said to me, currently tells me a lot about the structural problem of violence against women. I don’t have the solutions so I write this piece to raise awareness and out of hope that the future will be safer for all women and children.

Justice for Jessé. Justice for Uyinene. Justice for all women who are continuously violated by men.

Here’s something you can do. Sign this petition to declare gender based violence a state of emergency in South Africa.

Mexico’s Glitter Protests are a Movement Against Violence

Content note: this post contains references to rape

On August 16, thousands of women marched in various cities across Mexico. One particular case may have triggered them, but these marches were an answer to the systematic violence against women and girls in our country. If you’ve seen news or photos through social media recently, you might be wondering what really sparked this mass-mobilization across the Mexico.


We are writing this article to inform you and encourage you to get involved in the Mexican fight against gender-based violence. Here are the facts.

On August 6, news started circulating of a 17-year-old girl making a legal complaint against four policemen who raped her in a patrol car in Azcapotzalco, Mexico City. Over the next week, the case went viral on social media because security forces were directly involved in the crime. Public outrage escalated due to the lack of professionalism in the response from local authorities.

On Monday 12th, around 300 women marched to the attorney’s office. Their placards read: “No nos cuidan, nos violan” (they don’t look after us, they rape us). The protest was not only to demand the legal prosecution of the policemen involved, but also the strengthening of public policy against gender-based violence, and the correct implementation of the General Law for Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence. This law is supposed to ensure correct practice for any victim presenting a gender-based violence claim.

Later, it was confirmed by the local attorney general’s office (PGJCDMX) that the victim had opted out of the legal process due to a leak of her personal information – including her name and her home address. This left her and her family vulnerable to retaliation.

During the protests, demonstrators smashed the glass door of the PGJCDMX building and sprayed Jesus Orta, Mexico’s local security minister, with pink glitter.

In the midst of all of this, another sixteen-year-old girl was raped by a policeman inside the Museo Archivo de la Fotografía (Museum of Photography) in Mexico City’s historic center, and a 70-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and beaten to death in her house in Iztapalapa, Mexico City. And that’s only in the capital and only the cases that made it to the news.

In fact, from August 17 to 21, at least 17 women have been killed across Mexico.


In response to the demonstrations of August 12, Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico City’s first female elected mayor, asserted that the protests were “a provocation for local authorities to use force.” She confirmed that an investigation would take place.

Days later, PGJCDMX stated that the victim’s initial statement did not match the now public footage from two security cameras. The same footage from private houses in the area was acquired by the media and shared through various outlets. It was said that the investigation “could not continue” because the girl had opted out of the legal process, and that the officers would be released to their duties.

This further fuelled the outrage. Although the mayor announced that six policemen related to the crime had been suspended, the damage had already been done.

In response, various feminist organizations and groups planned a new march across the country. The ‘glitter protest’ was held on Friday 16 August in Mexico City.


Like many other women across the country, we were part of the glitter protests. Bita marched in the city of Aguascalientes and Mariana marched in Mexico City.

We both agreed that at a time like this, being among women was where we felt the safest. It was only the possibility of retaliation from security forces that we feared.

After the march, a new source of dread appeared. The media response to the rally was to call it vandalism. They criticize the spray painting of the historical monument “El Angel de la Independencia” and focused on the fact that a reporter was attacked (by a man who was later arrested). 

Suddenly, the violent ways of the march were all that mattered. In fact, according to DataPopMX, there’s a higher number of posts mentioning the trashing of the monument than the actual rape case.

Some dared to say that “rioting is not the answer.” But in a country where ninewomen are murdered every day, where over 80% of women don’t feel safe, where 56% of the nation is under a Gender Alert, and where girls make up about 40% of sex crime victims, it seems that rioting might be the only way to get anyone to listen.

So here it is: this is why we marched, why we broke glasses and sprayed monuments. Because revolutions can be peaceful, but when they keep killing us and raping us – sometimes all that is left is anger and pain.

Join Mexican women’s fight against gender-based violence and use the hashtags #NoNosCuidanNosViolan and #FuimosTodas to learn more.

This post was co-authored by Mariana Lizarraga and Bita Aranda.