Reflecting on Women’s Day

On 9 August each year we celebrate Women’s Day as a public holiday that was instituted in South Africa in 1994.
On 9 August 1956, more than 20 000 South African women of all races staged a march on the Union Buildings in protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act of 1950, commonly referred to as the “pass laws”.

The march was led by Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Willilams. Other participants included Francis Baard, a statue of whom was unveiled by Northern Cape Premier Hazel Jenkins in Kimberley on National Women’s Day 2009.

The women left bundles of petitions containing more than 100 000 signatures at the office doors of prime minister JG Strijdom. The women stood silently for 30 minutes, singing a protest song that was composed in honour of the occasion: Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.).

In the 54 years since, the phrase (or its latest incarnation: “You strike a woman, you strike a rock”) has come to represent women’s courage and strength in South Africa.

The advent of our democracy in South Africa was accompanied by a constitution which has been hailed around the world as a masterpiece of political, legal, economic and social governance framework. Women have been particularly highlighted as a valued and yet vulnerable social grouping.

In South Africa we have many admirable and courageous women who have led the way for women’s rights, have broken through the ‘glass ceiling’ in business and industry and have shown that gender should not be a barrier to the realisation of personal development dreams.

Source: DHET News

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