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The South African Air Force Celebrates Women‘s Indaba
 Article by  Thabile Mkhize, Ad Astra Magazine, photos by WO2 David Nomtshongwana

Gender equality is a critical component of the United Nations Resolution on human rights (resolution 1325). Women are subjected to a variety of barriers that determine their organisational experiences, and therefore the achievement of gender equity requires the elimination of patriarchal practices, stereotypes and attitudes that perpetuate their marginalisation.

Lt Gen Msimang giving an opening speech at the Women's Indaba

On the 17 April 1954, fourteen months before the freedom charter was adopted in Kliptown (Soweto Johannesburg) on 16 June 1955, the Federation of South African Women (FSAW) adopted the women’s Charter. In one of the largest demonstrations staged in this country’s history, about 10 000 to 20 000 women of all races marched to Pretoria’s Union Buildings to present a petition against the carrying of passes and permits by women to the Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom, 9 August 1956.

The march against the pass laws was organised by the FSAW challenging the idea that a women’s place ‘is in the kitchen’, declaring it instead to be everywhere’. This was to send a public message that they would not be intimidated and silenced by unjust laws. The petition was handed over to the secretary of the prime minister, which was followed by a freedom song ‘wathint’abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo (you strike a women, you strike a rock)

Maj Gen Malinga delivering his speech on Women's day at the Women's Indaba

In celebration of Women’s Day, the South African Air Force (SAAF) hosts an event called Women Indaba every year, this year’s theme being: Inspired Empowered To Enhance and Advocate Change in the SAAF, this being inspired by the White Paper on defence of 1996, which clearly illustrates that women are accommodated in the new South African National Defence Force (SANDF), and it further stipulates that women should not be restricted to support elements, but also have the opportunity to join any combat corps and participate in operations.

In his welcoming speech Chief of the SAAF Lt Gen F.Z. Msimang at the SAAF’s Women Indaba said that “it is you and I as members of the wider SAAF community who have to stand up and be counted, to ensure that we have a united and cohesive approach towards achieving gender equality and ensuring that all women have equal opportunities in all facets of the SAAF”.

Lt Col Seloane delivering a sexual harassment pledge

In 2008 the SAAF adopted a proposal to institutionalize Transformation Management. Thus far the SAAF have female Brig Gen’s on the Air Force Command Council (AFCC); Brig Gen M.M. Visser, Director Corporate Staff Services (DCSS), Brig Gen Y.J. Mavumbe, Director Transformation Management (DTM), Brig Gen J.C.M. Hartley, Director Air Capability Plans (DTA), and Brig Gen P.N. More, Director Operational Support and Intelligence Systems (D Ops Supp & Int S).

Amn Mlenzana resiting a poem in celebration of Women's day

The Chief further urged everyone to take time this month to reflect on the advances made by women and also recommit ourselves to address the challenges faced by women in the SAAF as well as in the broader society in order to create a non-sexist and non-racial country.

According to the population and gender bar graph uniformed female members in the SAAF are not more than 21% that shows that males are still dominant in numbers than females in 20 years of democracy.
Deputy Chief of the SAAF Maj Gen G. Malinga said that “women are not necessarily different species from man, but due to our cultures we still find it hard to accept change. “Be the change you want to see, as women, individual and a collective”, he said.

Brig Gen T. Mohale, Director Equity Strategy and Direction said that “transformation is a broad concept embedded in all spheres of life, a continuous improvement of the way we do businesses. The Women’s Charter laid a sound foundation for effective equality, and development of women. The freedom in 1994 ushered a new era in the historical legacy of women’s struggle committing to the recognition of human rights”.

Looking at the SAAF achievements in the 20 years of democracy:
• 29 Female Pilots
• 10 Female Engineers
• 336 Female Technical Personnel

Source: Brig Gen T. Mohale

Source: Brig Gen T. Mohale

Lt Col A.A.P. Seloane SO1 Equity Strategic Direction, in closing of the event read a Sexual Harassment Pledge, a pledge to ensure women’s safety, a pledge as men they hope to have signed and made official for all men in the SAAF to take in order to protect women in the SAAF.

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