– by Nkosingiphile Ntshangase
National Women’s Day is celebrated in South Africa every year during August – a significant time as back on 9 August in 1956 about 20 000 women of all races marched to Pretoria’s Union Buildings as a protest against black women having to carry passes. The pass system had been created by the apartheid government to oppress black women and turn them into passive objects.
The protest, one of the largest in South African history, was organised by the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) which challenged women’s roles by stating that a women’s place should be anywhere she wishes, not just in the kitchen.
During the protest, the women sang a freedom song that popularised the phrase ‘wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo’ (You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock), which to this day inspires and represents strength to women from all walks of life. The first National Women’s Day was celebrated during the launch of democracy in South Africa in 1995, when it was declared a national holiday.
Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights for an Equal Future, is this year’s Women’s Month theme. Creating platforms for women and young girls to have an equal say in decisions that affect their lives, bodies, policies, and environment, regardless of their background, is essential. The concept of generation equality is a global campaign established by the United Nations and links South Africa to its global efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030.
National Women’s Day is currently celebrated by drawing attention to many of the important issues women in South Africa still face, such as gender-based violence, discrimination, unequal pay, harassment in the workplace, equal access to education, and even access to basic amenities such as sanitary pads.
Here are some meaningful ways you can celebrate and honour National Women’s Day:
- Donate or volunteer at women empowerment organisations, shelters and schools. A few examples include 18twenty8, The Jess Ford Foundation, Project Dignity and POWA
- Start a collection of sanitary products and other toiletries to donate to local women’s shelters and schools
- Donate old clothes, bedding, toys, and household items to women, mothers and girls in need
- Advocate for gender equality in your workplace
- Support local, women-owned businesses
- Include men in your conversations about issues women are currently facing
“I stand for simple justice, equal opportunity and human rights. The indispensable elements in a democratic society – and well worth fighting for.”
– Helen Suzman