The 9th of August has become extremely important to South Africans from all backgrounds, races and cultures. On this day we get together and celebrate National Women’s Day, an annual public holiday that honours a major event, which took place in 1956.
What makes this day so special is the fact that a group of women launched a campaign to end the pass laws, which were enforced by the government. All black people in SA were forced to carry a special “pass” or identification document that they had to produce to prove they were allowed to enter a specific area that was designated for white people only. This was one of the main laws of the apartheid regime that restricted black people from moving freely.
The march was orchestrated by the Federation of South African Women and led by four brave women including Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Sophie Williams and Lilian Ngoyi. The ladies marched right up to the Union buildings and delivered their petitions to Prime Minister JG Strijdom’s office. Women from around the country added their names to the petitions to indicate their anger and frustration of not having the freedom to go where they please.
After the women handed the documents in at Strijdom’s office they quietly remained outside for about 30 minutes before bursting into song. Their protest song’s words are roughly translated into “You touch the women, you strike a rock,” which shows their immense courage and strength. Women’s Day is still held in high regard as a reminder of the significant contributions many women made in their society. The power of the women who rose up against the legislation that required black South Africans to carry the “pass” is still recognised each year. The first National Women’s Day celebrations were introduced in 1994 and take place annually. It’s because of these determined women and their countless followers who personified defiance in their own manner and showed the country as well as the world the extent of their strength and resilience that all females enjoy a better life in SA today!
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