South Africa women groups pay tribute to Gaza on IWD

South Africa women groups pay tribute to Gaza on IWD
One organization, Simunye Women Workers Forum, a women labour advocacy group based in Johannesburg,called for an immediate end to the war, freedom for women
5 min read
South Africa
11 March, 2024

South African women's groups celebrated Women's History Month marked from Friday, March 8, International Women's Day, in a sombre mood with a moving nod to the besieged women of Gaza.

Many appealed to the world to intervene to stop Israel's genocidal war targeting vulnerable women and children in Gaza.

Simunye Women Workers Forum, a women labour advocacy group based in Johannesburg, called for an immediate end to the war, freedom for women and children, and the opening of borders by Egypt to allow an unhindered escape of Palestinians who want to leave the area. The organization also demanded the imposition of sanctions on Israel and the free movement of food trucks, instead of food being dropped by airplanes.

The organization also dedicated IWD to the life and achievements of Fatima Bernawi, the first Palestinian woman to die in Israeli captivity. 

“Fatima Bernawi is an icon in the struggle. She died on 3 November 2022 at the age of 83. She was the most famous Afro-Palestinian freedom fighter (her father was from Nigeria). She was imprisoned by the Israelis for 10 years, from 1967-1977, the first ever Palestinian woman political prisoner," Organizer Meme Makhaula told The New Arab.

Pro-Palestine march in South Africa
Pro-Palestine women's march in South Africa [Author]

Makhaula recalled that Israeli forces are committing sexual violations against Palestinian women. She highlighted that between 7 October 2023 and 8 March 2024,  the IDF had killed more than 9000 women and 14000 children in Gaza. 

“We are trying to build solidarity so that a movement can grow which will successfully convince the South African government to implement a total boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against apartheid Israel. Sanctions are the only way that Israel can be stopped. Israel must be decolonised immediately and one democratic state should be set up where Israelis and Palestinians will live together with equal votes.”

Makhaula told the crowd gathered for IWD that Israel has been engaging in persistent land grabs since 1948, while Gaza has been under siege for over 15 ago limiting the movement of Palestinians in and out of the enclave.

In the current war, she added, Israel’s aim is to carry-out a full genocide of the Palestinians in Gaza, ethinically cleansing the whole area so that it will end up occupying the whole of Gaza Strip. 

Makhaula called out the double standards played of the US saying this was one of the reasons that allows Israel to keep occupying and invading Palestinian lands.

Urging the opening of the Rafah crossing to aid, she slammed the failure by the US to promote the equal distribution of food in Gaza instead of the current airdrops.

“We concur with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine that airdrops into Gaza are an insult to the dignity of the Palestinian people while they are being subjected to genocide"

“The airdrops are futile as they do not deliver food to all Palestinians who are starving to death. Egypt must open its borders for any Palestinians who want to go there to escape the genocide and the governments of the [Global] North must institute sanctions against Israel until it stops the genocide.”

Live Story

East London, South Africa

Nearly 1000 kilometres away, a group of  community healthcare workers in Mdantsane and East London, South Africa took to the streets for IWD to demand better working conditions while expressing solidarity with healthcare providers in Gaza.

Supported by the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers and social justice organization Cry of the Excluded, they called for an end to exploitation of women workers and the end to the killing of women and children in Gaza by the Israeli army.

“As healthcare providers, we are  also raising our voices and showing support and solidarity to our healthcare colleagues in Gaza. The killing of nurses, doctors, and the bombing of hospitals and ambulances must stop now," they said in a statement.

“The story of CHWs in South Africa is tantamount to the story of many health workers in Palestine and must be understood as a story of gender exploitation and the marginalization of women.

“We see the ongoing bloodbath in Gaza and what the Israeli Apartheid machinery is subjecting the people of Palestine. The dehumanization and demonization of the people of Palestine has culminated in genocide. Palestinians have been stripped of their basic rights to shelter, food, clean water, land, and healthcare among others while the world watches their extermination.”

Mdantsane resident and healthcare provider, Sindiswa Myeni said, “Healthcare workers the world-over should join hands and condemn the killings of women and children in Gaza. If women and healthcare workers in Israel were to disown the actions of their government, then the suffering of Gaza women and children would have never happened. What is baffling is that the IDF is implementing a policy of targeting nurses, doctors, ambulances and hospitals to ensure everybody dies. We demand an end to that.”

Seeing Palestine as a repetition of its former own apartheid colonial regime, South Africa’s case against Israel at the ICJ for genocide has been regarded as a landmark moment in the struggle for justice for Palestinians and an attempt to hold Tel Aviv accountable at the highest judicial level in the world. 

The preliminary ruling by ICJ judges ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide against Palestinians in the territory.