JOHANNESBURG– Young South African women have told President Cyril Ramaphosa that they no longer feel safe walking down the street as they fear being attacked, raped and killed.

The women who participated in the Young Women Dialogue at the Johannesburg City Hall on Tuesday evening raised these and other concerns with President Cyril Ramaphosa. The dialogue, organized by the Department of Women as part of the government’s Youth Month activities, was an opportunity for young women to discuss the challenges they face in all aspects of life.

Gender-based violence was highlighted as among the top challenges facing South African women. The scourge, they said, had reached pandemic proportions.

The meeting recommended the establishment of a Gender Violence Council as a platform to address gender-based violence. The women further called for the speedy conclusion of rape trials, so as not to delay the victims’ healing process.

President Ramaphosa, who participated in the dialogue, commended the women for being articulate, direct and courageous. He assured them that the issues they had articulated had not fallen on deaf ears.

One of the attendees, nuclear scientist Senamile Masango, used the dialogue to call for an increase in the number of women in the fields of science and engineering. The 30-year-old said there is a critical shortage of trained people in these fields and she stressed the need to increase the numbers as the skill is essential for the country’s development.

The shortage of scientists and engineers is also an issue as the number of percentage of women graduates is still below 20 per cent. Increasing the number of women in science and engineering in any company is a competitive advantage and it will both result in an increase of critical and better access to basic services, Masango said.

The President said he would like to see such dialogues continue in August to explore women’s issues further. He said they should include inter-generational and male participation so they can listen to the issues articulated by young women.

We want men to take a back seat and allow women to take the lead and come up with solutions that will continue to build our nation. It is the women who can come up with the solutions, and it is a young women in our country who can come up with solutions, the President said.

He called on the nation, particularly men, to honour the women of South Africa as they take full responsibility toward nation building. Women bear the brunt of everything that is negative in the country and therefore they should be recognized as nation builders. If you ever wanted to find a nation builder, look no further, look at the women of our country and you will see nation builders,” he added.

If you ever wanted to see home-builders, look no further, look at the women of our country and you will see family builders. We should, as men, honour you for the role and position you have in our nation.”