By Sabeehah Motala
First published in The Sowetan
Born on 27 April 1994, age-mate of South African democracy, it would be dishonest to say things are as I expected them to be at age 25.
As a patriotic South African, I cannot ignore the legacy of inequality that apartheid left us with. Although I never lived through the trauma of racial segregation, the effects of it have trickled down even to the society that I live in today.
Growing up, my parents taught me integrity, compassion and the value of contributing to the development of South Africa.
Both South Africa and I are guided by the constitution and are expected to contribute to the realisation of human rights by being accountable, ethical, and subject to the law.
I think I’m contributing positively to South Africa through my work and by paying my taxes, voting, by trying to keep my environment clean and uplifting others.
But the country doesn’t seem to be doing entirely the same for me and for others of my age.
Yes, our rights are guaranteed in the Constitution but their realisation for most people seems blocked by a thick storm of corruption, looting and greed.
Public funds that could be used to build school toilets, medical supplies and employment opportunities line the pockets of politicians. It is an arrogant display of selfishness in the face of poverty among the people who are desperately dependent on those resources.
Growing up in this country as a 25-year-old woman navigating the patriarchy and other gender inequality challenges in society, I feel that our democracy has not yet sufficiently grappled with social, political and economic gender dynamics.
Currently, female representation in Parliament is at 43%, yet serious issues such as the high rates of rape, women abuse and femicide, have only recently taken the spotlight.
What remains to be explored is that corruption worsens the situation for women in South Africa. Research shows that women, as primary caregivers, are more likely to be hindered by corruption in accessing healthcare services, education and social grants.
With less awareness of their rights and more fear of the consequences of reporting, women may also be less likely to report corruption, especially if it could lead to public humiliation.
In addition, women generally have less financial bargaining power and are, therefore, extremely vulnerable to sextortion, where sexual favours are demanded instead of money.
At a community engagement in Diepsloot, we met a single mother of two who told us about a housing official who came to her informal dwelling, told her she was next in line to receive an RDP house, but refused to process the paperwork if she did not have sex with him.
She refused, and was forced to continue living in the shack with her children. At a community engagement, women told us how the police abused the power of their uniform in order to have sex with them.
They told us of a young woman who took her own life after being gang-raped by police officers in a holding cell and then intimidated into silence.
It is a stark reminder that the currency of corruption is not always money. Women have paid for corruption with their bodies, their dignity and their lives.
Let us use our platforms, whether it be in civil society, the arts or business, to make our concerns heard.
Enough is enough!
• Sabeehah Motala is a project coordinator at Corruption Watch
• Image from Wikimedia Commons