Celebrate Women – Month of August
Every year on 9 August we celebrate Women’s Day in South Africa, a public holiday that pays homage to the women of our nation.
The mothers, the wives, the sisters and the daughters who fought tirelessly against the tyranny of the Apartheid government.
Inaugurated in 1994, along with a free, democratic South Africa, the public holiday commemorates a 1956 protest lead by Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu and Sophia Williams-De Bruyn. To rise up against the legislation that required black South Africans to carry the “pass” (special identification documents which infringed on their freedom of movement during the Apartheid era), approximately 20 000 women from all over the country took to the streets of Pretoria – many carrying the children of their white bosses on their backs – to stage a peaceful march to the Union Buildings.
After dropping off bundles of petitions containing more than 100 000 signatures at Prime Minister J.G Strijdom’s offices, they stood in silence for thirty minutes. A song was composed in honour of this momentous occasion, “Wathint’ Abafazi Wathint’ imbokodo!” (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock).
An inspiring display of political strength, female solidarity and inner fortitude, the march on August 9 1956 is both a reminder of the great women who helped mould South Africa and the trailblazing women who continue to lead the country forward.
- Wondering how to celebrate? Read our guide to “Things to do on Women’s Day”
Women’s Month looks at unity in South Africa – SAinfo Reporter
Women’s achievements in the workplace were acknowledged by Susan Shabangu at the official launch of Women’s Month activities, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on 30 July.
Shabangu, the minister in The Presidency responsible for women, said it was important that women’s achievements – such as being judges, directors or publishers in companies and those in male dominated environments like policing – should not be denied. “Next year, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Women’s March [which took place] in 1956. We are now hosting events in the build up to next year’s celebrations.” Challenges women faced today would also be addressed, such as gender-based violence. “From the beginning of November, we will engage women in national dialogues, making sure we understand why we still have these challenges. “We will try to identify the gaps and have to strengthen the arms with communities.”
The theme of Women’s Month this year is “Women united in moving South Africa forward”. Women’s Month runs every August, with Women’s Day an annual national public holiday on 9 August. The day marks the Women’s March against apartheid laws, specifically against the law requiring all black women to carry pass books, which took place on 9 August 1956.
Women from all parts of the country arrived in Pretoria and marched to the Union Buildings to deliver a petition to the prime minister, JG Strijdom. He was not there to meet the women, who left huge bundles of petitions. Estimates of the number of marchers ranged from 10 000 to 20 000. Shabangu remarked that the women in the 1956 march came together despite their diversity and the apartheid laws. “They united to say ‘we need each other as women in this country. Our fight is the fight of all the women in South Africa.'” The unity of women in diversity continued to be the anchor to take South Africa forward.