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Local women’s collective hosts all-women election debate

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By Anees Teladia

With South Africa already being a site of severe socio-economic inequality, women arguably face another crisis of inequality within the existing one, i.e. gender inequality. Accordingly, the Rita Edwards Collective decided to host an election debate which would allow for a focus on the challenges women face in South African society. The election debate was attended by several political parties, all varying in size and composition. The audience posed questions and passed comments while the panel (which was compromised solely of women) addressed concerns and shared their party manifestos.

Rita Edwards Collective member, Ronel Stevens told VOC Breakfast Beat that the Collective is a group of feminists that exists as a non-chartered political organisation. They are a small women’s collective that has been in existence since 2012.  Their members come from different areas in Cape Town such as Bo-Kaap, Mitchell’s Plain, Bishop Lavis, Maitland, Khayelitsha, Langa, Gugulethu, Mowbray, Grassy Park, Woodstock, Elsies Rivier as well as from peri-urban areas such as Philippi and Stellenbosch. The collective aims to build a shared understanding of the struggles women face and to act in solidarity to fight the issues that they believe disproportionately affect women. Among those issues are violence, poor services and facilities, unemployment and a lack of housing.

As such, they believe in not simply highlighting issues but in standing in solidarity with women affected by challenges and in trying to find alternatives. This then inspired them to hold the election debate. Stevens was satisfied with the audience’s participation but said that in spite of the panellists all being women, they were not necessarily understanding of the issues women face.

“There were ten political parties [in attendance]. There was the ANC, the EFF, the DA, the ACDP and the UDM. We also had the Women Forward and some others.”

“Essentially, every panellist was a woman – so that was very good. But that doesn’t mean they’re understanding of women’s issues,” said Stevens.

“The political parties weren’t necessarily clear with their responses. Some of the issues that came up were around services and it was mentioned that in Elsies Rivier, the drains are overrun and then run into people’s homes. Another one of the questions were: when are you going to come and deliver on the services you constantly talk about but never do [deliver on]?”

“So the agenda was that we have these issues we want to discuss – safety for women and children, issues on violence, social grants, social mobility and how women are being specifically earmarked for these discussions.”

Stevens says that while the event was constructive in terms of promoting community involvement and public engagement, the political parties were too vague in their answers.

“We felt there wasn’t clarity from the political parties,” said Stevens.

“Women are the backbone of all our communities.”

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