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Women Must Shatter The Glass Ceiling Of The Office Of ANC President

Women who have availed themselves for consideration, as is their right, have faced heightened levels of sexism and attacks on their character.

14/11/2017 12:08 SAST | Updated 14/11/2017 12:08 SAST
Rajesh Jantilal/ AFP/ Getty Images
ANCWL members.

Dear South African women,

I write this open letter you because you are a numerical majority in our country; I write to you in recognition of the important contributions you have made and continue to make in our country; I write to you in recognition of the enormous potential social capital you wield in society; I write to you because you are an important and powerful voice in our country.

South African women, especially women who are in the public domain, women who are in senior leadership positions, women who are in business and women in general, should leverage their stature to shatter another glass ceiling that remains oppressively impenetrable to women. The glass ceiling I'm referring to is the office of the ANC president.

In 106 years, over a century, the ANC has never had a woman president nor has it had a woman dare to avail herself for nomination for the presidency; however, we are fortunate enough that this year, 2017, three women have been brave enough to avail themselves for nomination to the office of the ANC president.

I believe it's trite to point out that the president of the ANC will by all reasonable measures become the president of the country; therefore, the first female president of the ANC will by extension become the first female president of South Africa, again breaking another stubbornly patriarchal pattern of access to the Union Buildings.

In 106 years, over a century, the ANC has never had a woman president nor has it had a woman dare to avail herself for nomination for the presidency.

But the women who have availed themselves for consideration, as is their right, have faced heightened levels of sexism and attacks on their character.

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Lindiwe Sisulu have had their identities, their individual contributions to the liberation struggle and their experiences in governance stripped away from them. The first woman to chair the African Union in 53 years, a consummate diplomat and one of the most accomplished women on this continent has been reduced to being nothing but President Jacob Zuma's baby mama.

On the other hand, Sisulu, one of the longest-serving Cabinet ministers, whose held senior and critical Cabinet positions, has been reduced to being just "Walter's little girl". This dismissive attitude and desire to minimise strong women speaks to how women are generally tolerated, but not respected in boardrooms and other decision-making structures. This vitriol may be directed to these three women, but it is, in reality, a subliminal desire of sexists everywhere to cut every woman down to size and put them back in their place.

In the face of such misogynistic and sexist attacks against these three women who are ANC presidential hopefuls, women everywhere, especially women with public profiles, should close ranks, show solidarity and publicly pledge their support.

This vitriol may be directed to these three women, but it is, in reality, a subliminal desire of sexists everywhere to cut every woman down to size and put them back in their place.

It is for the reasons canvased here that I request you to go on record endorsing any one of or all of the three women running for the ANC presidency. Your official endorsement will be a small but extremely important milestone in the history of our country and our continent, it would send a signal to women throughout the country that women will stand together and, contrary to dominant narratives, that women actually have confidence in one another.

Your endorsement letter could become a historic document. Generations to come will refer to it as the small snowball that started an avalanche of women presidents in the ANC and our country.

Kindly post your endorsement with the hashtag #WomenMustLead.