One of our grade eleven learners, Jade Kerchhoff, delivered the following speech at an assembly commemorating Women’s Day:

“On the 9th of August 1956, more than 20 000 women staged a march at the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest against Apartheid laws, and that day is now commemorated as National Women’s Day.

However, like most momentous public holidays, I am afraid that the significance of this one, has been lost. It has been compressed into one simple idea and merely added to the list of public holidays that we look forward to, only because we have the day off. We are nonchalantly reminded every year that almost 60 years ago hordes of women marched to abolish pass laws because they were unhappy – however, it is deeper than that.

Those women gathered together and went to make a stand – to make their voice heard about something critical in their lives at the time and Women’s Day is a day in which we are to celebrate their strength and bravery. Now, a lot may have changed since that fateful day, but most things have remained the same.

For many of the 3.3 billion female occupants of our planet, the perks of the cyber age never arrived. As National Women’s day is celebrated annually, they continue to feel the age old lash of oppression, but don’t get it twisted though. Whether a woman is gang raped in the street and then beaten to death; or whether a woman is being catcalled and degraded in the corridors of our school, oppression is what it is. What females need to understand is that there is no form that is milder or more severe than the other. That being said, I believe that most women today are going through a more critical time, a time where women are hardly respected anymore, they are no longer revered for their life-giving and nurturing role on this earth, but are treated with such contempt and injustice, physically and emotionally. Millions of females around the world are condemned to be under a man’s control - excuse the generalisation.

To put my message into perspective, think about the following:

The image of the 21st century woman is depicted as confident, prosperous and glowing with health and beauty. Every single day and everywhere we go, we see various distorted forms of this on billboards, magazine covers and TV advertisements. The problem is that very few of us have noticed how painstakingly obvious it is that these women are portrayed as pretty things to look at, as sex symbols…as objects. Turn on almost any TV channel and you are will see that this is normalized, because companies believe that “sex sells”. It has become so overwhelming that it’s hard to tell what they’re even selling. What makes this even sadder is that we are so happily exposed to this imagery that scientists have actually discovered that both men and women view women’s bodies as a mish-mash of sexual body parts.

The way women are viewed in today’s day and age is a grave injustice and is an issue deeply rooted in society that is only alive through silence. Women should be angry. The men who still appreciate and respect women for the role and presence on earth should be angry too; because anger has a long history of bringing about positive change. I understand that gender equality is usually an uncomfortable topic and a phenomenon that is likely to never occur, but girls should not be taught to shrink themselves in order to not overpower the man. We might not be equal in terms of hormones and biological abilities, but masculinity does not mean being tough and femininity does not mean being soft. Every single thing that a man can do, a woman can do equally as well. At the end of the day, we are all two halves of the same species.

Therefore, to the boys, cherish and protect the females around you, whether you feel they are worthy or not. Respect them, not because they’re females, but because they are people too. Girls, never feel sorry for your femininity and keep in mind that if this was a man’s world, God would not have made you. You are potent and gentle, you are phenomenal and you ALWAYS have a say. Lastly, to every single woman present, we are each other’s greatest advocate - there is no competition. Your womanhood and your beauty is not determined by what a man thinks of you. So assert your femininity, because power is not given to you - you have to take it.”

Written by Jade Kerchhoff
Grade 11NG