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ANC Director Urges Action

Carolus Says Women Must Work to End Discrimination

NO WRITER ATTRIBUTED

Cheryl Carolus, deputy secretary general of the African National Congress (ANC), spoke to two campus audiences yesterday about worldwide struggles against racial and gender inequality.

Carolus, who is the highest ranking woman in the ANC and its youngest officer, spoke at a press conference at Radcliffe College and at the Arco Forum of Public Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government as Radcliffe's guest for its annual Rama Mehta Lecture.

In the press conference, Carolus discussed her experiences as a black South African fighting against apartheid. In the speech later in the afternoon, she related that experience to the struggle of women worldwide for a voice in government.

At the press conference, Carolus said recent progress toward racial equality in South Africa has been astonishing.

"Just doing things we take for granted now in South Africa...is quite odd," she said.

She said black South Africans are seriously committed to preventing a resurgence of racism in the future.

"Black South Africans have a great sense of pride. We don't have a great sense of vengeance because we understand how dehumanized white South Africans had become," she said. "Blacks have liberated whites from their own racism there."

The ANC has played a major role as a social equalizer in South Africa through its attempts to include all citizens in the political process, she said.

"The ANC is light years ahead of any other institution in the country," she said. "It is an organization for ordinary men and women."

In the speech at the Kennedy School early yesterday evening, Carolus said recent trends toward democracy in many areas of the world place women at a crucial juncture.

"We are at an epoch-making period of new world orders and democracies," she said. "We will be held accountable by history, and none can say they stood by passive. Rarely have we had such a window of opportunity. I urge all to seize it and make the new world order one of equality and peace."

Despite this recent democratization, Carolus said the gaps between rich and poor and powerful and disempowered are growing wider.

She also said that in spite of the recent focus on women's rights at the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing, she sees many women's rights being challenged again by a new wave of fundamentalism.

"There's a weird sort of dichotomy between all these conferences and their focus on poverty and development of women in particular...and their complete lack of correlation with reality," she said.

Rather than becoming cynical as a result of this dichotomy, Carolus said women need to seize the moment and act decisively.

Women should not merely blame men as the cause of inequality but should themselves take action to improve the balance of power between the sexes, she said.

One key to improving the position of women, Carolus said, is to make both men and women work toward improving women's status--just as racial inequality in South Africa was altered only when both whites and blacks agreed that the system had to be changed.

"The forces that perpetuate sexual inequality are far more powerful than those that maintain racial inequality," Carolus said. "Everyone knows it is not okay to stand up and say, 'I am a racist.' There is not the same stigma against sexism."

Still, Carolus said she feels real advances are possible.

"We used to say 'Freedom in our lifetime,'" Carolus said. "If we can overcome those odds in South Africa, we can overcome a heck of a lot.

Women should not merely blame men as the cause of inequality but should themselves take action to improve the balance of power between the sexes, she said.

One key to improving the position of women, Carolus said, is to make both men and women work toward improving women's status--just as racial inequality in South Africa was altered only when both whites and blacks agreed that the system had to be changed.

"The forces that perpetuate sexual inequality are far more powerful than those that maintain racial inequality," Carolus said. "Everyone knows it is not okay to stand up and say, 'I am a racist.' There is not the same stigma against sexism."

Still, Carolus said she feels real advances are possible.

"We used to say 'Freedom in our lifetime,'" Carolus said. "If we can overcome those odds in South Africa, we can overcome a heck of a lot.

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