How South Africa joined all South Africans home and diaspora to celebrate this year’s National Women’s Day. 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.