Taking on the Vavis and SA's holy cows

2013-08-27 13:11
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 Marlene le Roux (Supplied) ~ Supplied
Marlene le Roux, a director at Artscape, says South Africa can have the best constitution, a commission on gender equality and a ministry for women, children and disability, but there is still a need to walk the talk. She speaks her mind:

IF YOU look at politics of today, there is no woman in sight to be the president of the country. The ANC Women’s League supports a male candidate every time.

It shows how deeply rooted our society is in the patriarchal way of thinking. Look at Cosatu - no march has ever been arranged for the empowerment of women.

And a telling example is the case of Zwelinzima Vavi, who is supposed to look after the equality of all workers, but abused his power by having sex at the workplace with a female subordinate.

It is appalling to know that in parliament there is no campaign to make all parliamentarians pay their maintenance (child support). We need to retrain the entire nation on the value of women.

And it must start with our president and our parliamentarians.

We can have the best constitution, a commission on gender equality, a ministry for women, children and disability, but we need to walk the talk.

We need to redesign our school curricula. We need to look at our police services to understand their role and to retrain their mindset when victims report rape and domestic violence.

It means nothing if you have a woman commissioner if she herself does not understand the empowerment of women on all levels.
This is not just about being CEOs of companies; it is about being treated with dignity, respect and humanity on all levels.

In the workplace there is still a battle. You need to assert yourself all the time; as a woman you still don’t have it easy.
An entire nation’s mindset towards women empowerment needs to be changed.


We have to acknowledge that as a country we have made big strides with our laws and women in parliament.

It is the implementation of these laws that is needed. It is really about putting power into the hands of women and for them to be involved in retraining an entire nation’s mindset.

The ANC chairperson is a woman. The African Union chairperson is a woman - please nominate her as our next president.

And we have Helen Zille as the leader of the opposition. 

But we need to address as a nation the holy cows of cultural practices that have a huge impact on the disempowerment of women.

We too often condone that it is part of culture to have six wives and still have several mistresses.

We can have the best policies, but until we address these challenges and effectively introduce programmes to engineer the reconstruction of our society's mindset and how we see the role of women, we will still have instances like the horrific rape and murder of Annene Booysen.

Women empowerment

In order to empower themselves, women must at all times seek education and to further this education. You must be at the top of your game.

Do not ask for any favours and stand tall.

I never want to be a man, I just want equality.

But we cannot lose sight of the fact that it is indeed still a man’s world. Women are still expected to know their place.
I am loud, live life to the fullest and still do my job. And even I experience marginalisation.

I just get on with the job. And every day in my working environment I try to be a voice for women, because that is important.

Every small victory is a big win for the future generation.

Time management

I am a director at my company and I don’t have a house executive, so I must manage time effectively.

As a mother of two beautiful kids - one is serverely cerebral palsied - I have my fair share of challenges. But I cope, because I have some resources.

So I can absolutely speak with passion about women who are in the same situation as I am, but with fewer resources, and how the workplace must accommodate them.

My motto is: you don’t need to be the CEO of the company to lead or to influence decision-making.

You must lead by example and get the job done, but also recognise the challenges women have in the workplace.

Words of advice

* Have respect for women and men who manage with kindness and ethics.

* We do have laws that protect us on all levels. We must understand and start to implement them.

* Don’t let your circumstances determine your future.

* It is up to you to make that difference.

* It is not the big salary you earn and the expensive clothes you wear that make you a person. It is how you treat others that will put you a cut above the rest.
* Stand up for your rights. You don’t need to shout; just state your case and know what you are talking about.

* Knowledge is power.

About Marlene le Roux

The highly acclaimed Le Roux doesn't let anything stand in her way in her fight for justice and equality; she is always aiming to close the divide which still exists as a legacy of apartheid.

She goes to great lengths to bring people to the theatre and, when that proves difficult, to take the theatre to the people in the form of a fully-fledged production to the rural areas and communities.

Despite being a person with a disability - Le Roux was just three months old when she contracted polio - she was the first one in her family to gain a tertiary education.

As a passionate campaigner determined to change attitudes and lives, she participated in a first-of-its kind coffee table book that showed disabled women as sensual individuals who can hold their own. She is now a mouthpiece for the rights of disabled people.

Among her many achievements and awards are:

* The Shoprite/Checkers Woman of the year award in 1998 (Art category);
* The Desmond Tutu Legendary Award 2001;
* Chevalier des Ordres et des Lettres  (French knighthood in the performing Arts 2002);
* Woman of the World path the Way award 2004;
* Western Cape Provincial Award, Arts & Culture 2004;
* The City of Cape Town Mayoral Gold Medal Award for outstanding contribution played in the role of enhancing women’s, youth and disability issues.

In addition to this, Le Roux was selected from 20 countries to serve as an international expert on the London Olympic Committee 2012 and the arts council of England to select collaborative arts projects to be showcased as part of the London Olympics and Paralympics 2012.

In that same year she also received the German Peace Award.

This year, Le Roux was honoured with the French Award Chevalier dans l'ordre national du Mérite for her role in the arts, culture and youth development.

- Fin24

* This is a Fin24 user submission. Tell us about your experiences in the workplace and add your voice to our Women's Wealth Issue to help empower others this Women's Month.

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