National Women’s Day. On 9 August 1956, approximately 20 000 South African women from all walks of life came together to march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, in protest against the country’s pass laws.
The Abolition of Passes and Co-ordination of Documents Act of 1952, commonly known as the Pass Laws Act, repealed the many regional pass laws and instituted one nation-wide pass law. The women left 14 000 petitions at the office doors of former prime minister, J.G. Strydom and then stood silently for 30 minutes.
They then started to sing a protest song, composed especially for the occasion. The words “you strike a women, you strike a rock”, represents the strength and courage of South African women to this day, just as it did back in 1956.
Although their protests were not successful at first, it would go on to play a big role in the fight against oppression and the first democratic election of 1994.
Fighting the good fight for future generations. “She was not fragile like a flower; she was fragile like a bomb.” – Entity
National Women’s Day draws attention to several significant issues women still face, such as domestic violence, sexual harassment in and outside of the workplace, unequal pay and stereotyping against women.
National Women’s Day was first recognized as a public holiday in 1995, after former president Nelson Mandela started his presidentship. Before 1994, women only made up 2.7% of the Parliament but, after the democratic election, that number skyrocketed to 27.7% and has since nearly doubled to 48%.
Today, women have the same rights and opportunities as men, because our predecessors were brave enough to stand up for what they believed in.
Let us make the best of the opportunities that these brave women fought for.