THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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SOUTH AFRICAN EMBASSY
(If you strike a woman you strike a rock, and you will die!)
A saying from South Africa during the darkest days of the nation’s oppression.
Ambassador of South Africa to Denmark and Lithuania,
H.E., Ms. Samkelisiwe I. Mhlanga
Speech by Ambassador of South Africa to Denmark and Lithuania, Samkelisiwe I. Mhlanga,
at the soon-to-open Crisis Centre for Women in Klaipeda
I would like to thank you for the honour of allowing us to pay a short visit to this inspiring centre you are establishing here in Klaipeda. I would like to commend the community leaders of Klaipeda for your insight and your hard work and I would like to wish you well with all your future planning and efforts. I would also like to express my admiration to the employees of the centre. These are the people who accepted the calling to fight abuse every day of their lives. Ladies and Gentleman, we admire you.
As South African’s we are humbled to be here, as the life stories we have heard and witnessed today in this place, cannot but remind us of the hardships and suffering of the women of our own country. It should also remind us that no nation on earth should claim to be completely free if the vulnerable members of its society continue to suffer abuse, injustice and discrimination.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I come from a continent whose history is filled with colonialisation and oppression that brought with it unmentionable hardship. I come from a country where a racist regime governed for 5 decades and passed laws that kept a country in bondage and cost the lives of thousands of its citizens.
In general, all racial and ethnic groups in South Africa have long-standing beliefs concerning gender roles, and most are based on the premise that women are less important, or less deserving of power, than men. Most African traditional social organizations are male centered and male dominated. Even today, in some rural areas of South Africa, for example, wives walk a few paces behind their husbands in keeping with traditional practices.
But Ladies and Gentlemen, things are changing in my country. Twentieth-century economic and political developments presented South African women with both new obstacles and new opportunities to wield influence.
Ambassador Samkelisiwe I. Mhlanga and Political Councellor Douw GJ Vermaak from the South African Embassy in Copenhagen were at the soon-to-open Crisis Centre for Women in Klaipeda last week, Here discussing the topic of violence against women with Klaipeda’s Mayor, Vytautas Grubliauskas (left)
and the staff of the Municipality’s social department.
As you will know, in South Africa, there was a long tradition of women’s participation in the national struggle. In recognition of these women’s commitment and their sacrifices our first freely–elected Government identified non‐sexism, together with non‐racism, as the core values that would underpin our new democracy.
Today women occupy various roles in South African society, some very visible, some very subtle.
So I came here today to tell you that If women can be relied upon to come forward in desperate times to serve the common purpose of liberating the masses in the just struggle for a free South Africa, then why should women all over the world not expect their due which is nothing less than an equal place in society?
Today women make up a third of South Africa’s parliamentarians and almost half of the Cabinet, holding key portfolios across the board. It is something South Africans should be proud of and continue to improve on.
It is truly wonderful to see women being able to take charge of their own destiny ‐ and that of their families, communities and nations. In South Africa we hold as an unshakable belief that we must continue to fight discrimination and abuse against women and help to move forward the women’s agenda internationally.
I would like to leave you today by telling you of a saying that originated in South Africa in the darkest days of our oppression. The saying goes like this "Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo; uzokufa!" (If you strike a woman you strike a rock, and you will die!)
The legacy of oppression and mental and physical abuse weighs heavily on women. As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance. As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure.
We will keep this centre in our thoughts and our prayers. Thank you.
Samkelisiwe I. Mhlanga
South African Embassy
Gammel Vartov Vej 8
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