Today is Nelson Mandela’s 100th birth anniversary. The South African anti-apartheid leader was the country’s first Black and first elected President in a fully democratic election. He was the head of the state from 1994 to 1999
He was a staunch supporter of women’s rights. Here are five things Nelson Mandela did for women.
Establishment of Women’s Day on August 9
After becoming President in 1994, Mandela established Women’s Day on August 9. This was done to give women their long due credit for standing up against racism and fighting to eradicate apartheid.
According to a report by Global Citizen, he had said in his Women’s Day speech, “Forty years ago, a legion of brave and determined women dared to throw down the gauntlet at the seat of apartheid power, We honour these veterans.”
Entry of women in his office
After Mandela came into power, the number of women in the government increased as he appointed one-third women in his cabinet. According to the UN, the percentage of women in government offices rose from 2.7% in 1990 to 27% in 1994 in South Africa
A report by CNN states that Frene Ginwal was the Speaker of the House and was seen as one of the most important appointments. She held the this position throughout Mandela’s presidential term and even during the first term of President Thabo Mbeki.
Today, around 44% of the country’s politicians are female.
Signed UN treaty to end discrimination against women
Mandela ratified the United Nations Convention to End All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1995. The treaty was ratified in 1979 by UN but it didn’t become a law in South Africa until Mandela came to power.
The document “affirms the reproductive rights of women and targets culture and tradition as influential forces shaping gender roles and family relations. It affirms women’s rights to acquire, change or retain their nationality and the nationality of their children. States parties also agree to take appropriate measures against all forms of traffic in women and exploitation of women”.
Essential healthcare services to women
Mandela worked towards giving women proper access to essential services. He introduced free prenatal and postnatal care for mothers in the public healthcare system.
He also gave free healthcare to children up to the age of six.
During the drafting of the South African constitution in 1995, Mandela said, “As a tribute to the legions of women who navigated the path of fighting for justice before us, we ought to imprint in the supreme law of the land, firm principles upholding the rights of women.”
The Constitution, which criminalizes discrimination against women, states: “The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”
To create a equal society free from all kinds of gender oppression, there was a provision for the establishment of the Commission for Gender Equality in it. He signed the final draft in 1996 on International Human Rights Day in December.
Mandela kept on working to uphold the rights of women during his entire lifetime.
Picture Credit: Indian Express