Stellenbosch University
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I am here, let me speak!
Author: Zandri Swanepoel
Published: 16/08/2021

Remarkable women. They have marched hand-in-hand through the ages. They walked with hope and knew that what they were about to do could change their current reality and those of future generations. They used their presence and their silence to take a stand against a system which did not hold their best interests at heart.
The question remains, are we still marching?

It is 2021 and our hopes and dreams are clouded by fear, violence, and injustice. We have become so focused on the influence of the Covid-19 pandemic on South Africa that we, as a community, have forgotten that there are woman and children affected by gender-based violence in our country.
People are living in fear, some so afraid to tell their stories because they know there is a possibility that they won’t be believed by society or people in power. It seems that victims, or people exposed to gender-based violence, are used to living in silence. However, I believe it is the untold stories lying in silence that can influence change. 

The women who marched in 1956 used their presence as an effective weapon to make society and government aware of who they are, and the future that they believed in. In 1956 they marched to a building (the Union Buildings) symbolising hope, and they dreamed of a better future. Now we march in the streets, to courts and in suburbs, and in the silent chambers of the hearts of victims. Our silent fears are becoming louder and louder with every single step we take. 

As a community, we can be the change needed to make people aware of the rising number of femicide and gender-based violence victims in our beloved country. As a community, we sometimes choose to ignore injustice because in many instances it is inconvenient to our current reality. But this is when we need to spread awareness about the issues not covered by the media, issues of people who are struggling every day and fighting to survive. Governments and people in power need to be kept up to date with what is lurking in the shadows and in the silence but more importantly, government needs to know what the reality of its citizens are!

Remarkable women like Charlotte Maxeke, who led the way in establishing the ANC Women’s League; Ray Alexander Simons, Elizabeth Mafikeng, and Elizabeth Abrahams will always be associated with the struggles that women faced in our not so recent past and current reality. One thing they all had in common was that their efforts became noticed and that influenced change. 

They became the voice that was heard by many people, and which inspired many more. We have the power to spread awareness and to help those who are afraid to tell their own stories. We need to focus on the untold stories of others and be the voice that can ultimately change our nation.

Zandri Swanepoel
(1st Year BCom Law Student)