By Naseerah Nanabhai
Resilient, patient, loving, and strong — South Africa honours all women on National Women’s Day, the 9th of August. This day dedicated to women has a significant and painful history.
On the 9th of August 1956, approximately 20,000 women marched to Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the extension of pass laws to females. The laws required black South Africans to carry an internal passport to preserve population separation, manage urbanisation, and control migrant labour during the apartheid era.
The march was organised by The Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) and was led by four remarkable women; Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Sophy Williams and Lillian Ngoyi.
The leaders delivered petitions to the Prime Minister’s office inside the Union Buildings. Women across the country had signed these petitions to demonstrate their anger and frustration at restricting their freedom of movement by official passes.
As we celebrate women’s month this year, we pay tribute to these brave women. This year women’s month is marked under the theme: “Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future”. The concept of Generation Equality is a global campaign and links South Africa to international efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030.
This theme is influenced by the numerous challenges African women still face today, such as domestic violence, unequal pay, harassment, and education for all girls. Celebrating women’s day under this theme aims to accelerate gender parity.
Since the establishment of this public holiday in South Africa, there have been many advances in gender equality, such as a more significant representation of women in parliament and more opportunities for women all-round.
National Women’s Day is based around the same principles as International Women’s Day and strives for the same freedoms and rights. As South Africans, we should never forget the brave women who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today.