Hlomelang: Official Online Publication of the ANCYL
ANCYL Constitution: as amended and adopted by the 25th National Congress September 2015
Hlomelang: Vol. 13 No. 1: 25 July  07 August 2016
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ANCYL and its role in the struggle for Gender Equality


Discussions regarding the gender perspective in the ANC Youth League have been taking place for a long time. Numerous discussion documents have been written and resolutions passed on this subject. As a result any contribution to this subject should take that into account.


The paper is both a review and a contribution to various decisions of the Youth League, a majority of which are still relevant as we move towards national congress. The paper does not offer a fresh gender perspective nor does it suggest new programmes that the organisation needs to take up in order to achieve gender equality. Rather it makes an assessment of where we are as a country and offers suggestions on what our role as the ANC Youth league should be,


Legal and policy framework: parliament and government have passed sets of policies that seek to improve the position of women and promote gender equality. These include:

  • Section 9 of the constitution, providing for freedom from unfair discrimination on the basis of sex;
  • Policy on education and training providing for the eradication of gender stereotypes in learning;
  • Legislation allowing or termination of pregnancy on request for all women over the age of 16,
  • The domestic violence act of 1998 outlawing all forms of abuse against forms of abuse against women;
  • SADC declaration on the prevention and eradication of violence against women and children;
  • The enactment of legislation prescribing tougher sentences for serious crimes such as rape;
  • New labour laws extending the scope to cover women, especially invulnerable sectors such as farm workers and domestic workers. Examples of these are the employment equity act, and the basic Conditions of Employment Act;
  • National gender machinery within and outside of government, such as the office of the status of women, and the commission on gender equality;
  • The new maintenance act obliging fathers to support/maintain their children;
  • The new policy that has been developed by the advertising standards bureau forbidding the objectification of women in the practice of advertising.

These are some of the many gender sensitive policies and laws that the ANC-led government has pushed for.


In addition to policies mentioned above, several programmes have been introduced in order to realize visible change in the living standards of women, and families. Some of these are:

  • Access to clean, running water reaching millions of South Africans;
  • Child support grants targeting a sizeable number geting a sizeable number of families;
  • The electrification, and telephone installation programmes targeting rural areas and other disadvantaged areas
  • The free health care for pregnant mothers and children under the age of six;
  • Clinic building programme in rural areas
  • Establishment of sexual offenses courts as a measure to provide for women friendly judicial environment
  • Community based public works programs, which have been very successful, have consistently targeted women as participants and in skill transfer.
  • Other flagship programmes by government such as working for water, clean and green cities, also consist of strong women participation.
  • The continuing deployment of women into strategic and senior positions within the state is yet another indicator of the fact that the ANC-led government is truly committed to gender equality.


"It is vitally important that all structures of government, including the president himself, should understand this fully. That freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. All of us must stake this on board, that the objectives of the reconstruction and development programme will not have been realized unless we see in visible and practical terms, that the condition of the women of otion of the women of our country has radically changed for the better, and that they have been empowered to intervene in all aspects of life, as equals with any member of society."

[President Nelson Mandela in his first speech at the opening of the firs democratically elected parliament.]

  • Despite the achievement of political democracy, The systemic institutionalization of racism in our country in the past continues to fudge both class and gender differences. The reality is that women, black, particularly African women still experience triple oppression, oppressed because they are black, exploited as part of the working class, and oppressed by the patriarchal system. This conceptual framework should not escape us whenever we discuss women`s oppression.
  • Poverty and inequality still persists, affecting women the most. While there are progressive policies and programmes in place as well as improvement in the living standards of some, the reality is that a majority of women and families still live below the poverty line, have no access to clean water, food, and shelter. In many households it is women who have to raise children and support families under the conditions of living we have just described. It is therefore important that the ongoing struggle to fundamentally transform our society be strengthened through the active participation of participation of women, themselves as conscious agents in the struggle against women oppression.
  • Violence against women and children continues unabatedly, this not withstanding the existence of a legislative framework. The inability to read and write by millions of women continues to hinder their active participation in the economy, and elsewhere. Most women do not have control over their reproductive rights, and are sometimes forced to bear children even when they are not ready for such responsibilities, as well as being denied access to abortion services if they need them. Despite the passage of the termination of pregnancy act, most women, especially young women lose their lives in back street abortions, which often result in severe health problems sometimes leading to death. Whilst they are aware of the legisla legislation, there is often no recourse for women who do not get this support in public health institutions, which leads to unsafe abortions.
  • Congress reaffirmed the need to speed up the implementation of policies that improve the both the position of women in society, but also contribute in uplifting their standard of living.
  • In looking at the impact of these laws we should be careful not to confuse these laws for more than what they actually represent. Indeed these are political landmarks in the struggle for gender equality. They represent a set of new prescriptions for the judiciary, communities, and women themselves. They provide a chance for women who find themselves in situations where their rights are violated. But more importantly, they are a contribution to improving the status of women in our society.
  • However, a brief review of these policies and laws suggest that some can carry a number of problematic assumptions, and if not properly conceptualized can entrench patriarchy in society. For example, while the basic conditions of employment act broadens its scope to cover domestic workers and makes recognition for four months paid maternity leave, by not mandating paternity leave it reinforces notions of women as having a primary domestic role, and that of raising children.
  • At the level of implementation, there is a general problem of non-compliance by the agencies that are supposed to implement. For example, there is no mechanism for monitoring the implementation of the termination of pregnancy act in various health institutions. As a result, the passage of this law has not borne fruits for many women who require this service. There are no mechanisms for reinforcing the implementation of the employment equity act to ensure both the recruitment of women, and also their career progression. Most of these laws are left to the whims of managers and employers.
  • At another level, the Commission on Gender Equality has been engaged in a lot of work highlighting gender concerns in society. Some of their work has included campaigns regarding witchcraft and its impact on women, legislation, which affects women in the workplace, culture, especially the campaign against virginity testing for the girl-child.
  • Despite the above critique, there is confidence that our movement is meeting this challenge of tackling gender discrimination, always bringing these issues to the fore. The ANC Youth League therefore has to work hand in hand with both the ANC Women`s League, and the youth sector on all these issues.


What should the organisation do in order to take forward the struggle for gender equality?

At our last national congress, we passed several resolutions with regards to the gender question. A majority of these resolutions have not been taken forward.

Resolutions on

  • Gender perspective in the Youth League;
  • Mobilization of women in the ANCYL; relationship with the ANC Women`s League;
  • Women`s movement;
  • Women`s national coalition;
  • Violence against women; and
  • Customs, religion, culture, and position of women were all adopted by congress.

The reality is that most of these resolutions have not been implemented. We should then work at ensuring that, we develop an implementable programme. The forthcoming national congress should therefore discuss therefore revisit these resolutions instead of drawing up new resolutions.



Having highlighted the resolutions that were adopted by the previous national congress, the focus should move away from drawing up a new set of resolutions but that we should focus on bolstering our capacity to implement these resolutions. We must now systematically implement the resolutions oimplement the resolutions of national congress-98 with a focus on the following:

TASK ONE: A training programme for women within the organisation needs to be put in place. Such a programme should aim at empowering women with both political and administrative skills as well as gender education. A budget has to be drawn up and resources set aside towards this goal

TASK TWO: Actively engage in the process to rebuild the women`s movement, within the alliance and at various levels in society

TASK THREE: Focus on the situation of young women in reviewing the state of the youth report, and make recommendations. This report should inform our policy development.

In the next three years, we need to position the ANC Youth League, within the women`s movement. A constructive working relationship with the Women`s League must be developed. The ANC Women`s League must be supported into becoming the vanguard of the women`s movement, leading not only so, but also leading the SACP`s Gender Commission, and COSATU`s National Gender Committee, but society as a whole.

We need to put in place a structured mechanism to improve the implementation of congress resolutions. The organisation has a poor record of not implementing resolutions on gender questions. In addition, various experiences have shown that simply electing gender officers is not adequate to effective coordination of the gender programme. Congress should direct the incohould direct the incoming National Executive Committee to developing a Gender Policy for the Youth League. This policy will stipulate key concerns for the Youth League on matters of gender equality.

This policy will play a role in outlining issues affecting women, as well as how we need to respond to particular concerns of young women. The aims, purpose of such a policy will be to detail specific measures, which the organization commits itself to in order to improve the position of women both in society and within the organisation.

The gender policy should address such policy issues as building women leadership, election of women into leadership responsibilities, and related questions. These are issues that all democratic organisations such as ours should be addressing, but it must be done so in a systematic manner.

Campaign work in the coming years must focus on violence against women. There is a lot of work that is being done in this area and the ANC Youth League has invaluable experiences to share and learn from this process. Violence against women affects a lot of our members, and young women in general. We should plan programmes and link them with the 16 days of activism campaign violence against women.