9 August is an important day in the calendar of South Africa. It is a day when the women of South Africa from all walks of life and all racial groups declared that “Enough is Enough”! They can no longer sit and watch when their human dignity and rights being so violated and trampled upon to an extent that their humanity was slowly getting extinguished when they are the ones who bear the responsibility of keeping the family and the home together.
On this day in 1956, 20 000 women of South Africa marched to the union buildings, the administration seat of South African government to protest against Apartheid laws, one being “urban areas act of 1950 which aimed at controlling the movement of women in urban areas commonly known as pass law used to manage migrant labour, control urbanisation and maintain segregation.
It was led by Lillian Ngoyi – Jeppe street in central Johannesburg is now named after her and is known as Lillian Ngoyi Street, Helen Joseph- JG Strydom hospital in Johannesburg is now named after her and is known as Helen Joseph hospital, Rahima Moosa- Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital and Sophie Williams who’s still alive. They had a silent protest for 30 minutes at the Union Buildings and then left 14 000 petitions and 100 000 signatures at the door of the prime minister seeking to abolish those laws but more vital to make a stand and demand that if the government is not abolishing these laws, then they must arrest all of them at once because they’re not going to carry the pass with them.
They sang songs to make sure that their voices are heard literally and one revolutionary song was composed for the event and it goes “Wathinta Abafazi- wathinta imbokodo uzofa” meaning “ You touch women, you a touch a rock- you will die”. It’s for that event that today, we have a holiday named “Women’s Day” in a South African calendar.
This day was declared a holiday in 1995 by the new democratic government of South Africa led by President Nelson Mandela.
This day brings forth the attention to issues African women continues to suffer, blacks in particular. Issues like domestic violence, workplace sexual harassment, unequal pay, girls not allowed to go to school, gender-based violence and femicide.
In 1994, we had a very low percentage of women representation in all our government spheres with 2.7% in government and 27%in national assembly and around 2% in judiciary. After 9 August was declared a holiday in 1995, the picture has changed to almost 50% with judiciary being the one noticeably lagging far behind.
There are still huge challenges suffered by women globally, so the fight for promotion of gender equality and general women’s rights is still on.
The reasons for Women’s Day:
- It empowers women
- It raises awareness
- It gives history of how much women are suffering and how far they’ve come to be where they are today and how much they still suffer in the present day.
Women are equal beings to men.
They must be acknowledged, celebrated, loved, respected, praised and be part of human race without debates.
The fight for equality must continue…..