By Frerieke van Bree
20.000 women marched on the 9th of Aug 1956 towards the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the pass laws (special identification documents which curtailed an African’s freedom of movement during the Apartheid era.)
that proposed further restrictions on the movements of women.
Those brave women risked to be arrested, detentioned or banned. They demonstrated courage and strength and proved that they could organise themselves, that they were not powerless, that the commonly accepted stereotype of women (tied to the home and not politically mature) was outdated and inaccurate.
Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.) was what the women were singing during their march. The latest incarnation of their song: ‘Strike a woman, strike a rock’ has come to represent women’s courage and strength.
The 1956 March helped to shape the ideologies of many, particular those that drafted the South African Constitution and the Commission of Gender and Equality. August 9th is now celebrated as Women’s Day in South Africa.
Women are driving forces in the transformation of South Africa. Within the black community for example they are the ones that 1. Stand for their family, 2. Work, 3. Do all the cooking, housekeeping. Cape Town’s mayor (and national opposition leader), Helen Zille is a perfect example of a woman with courage and power.
Personally, through my profession (building industry) and experience of working both here in South Africa and in The Netherlands, I can conclude that traditional role-plays (women at home, men in power) are still much more accurate here in South Africa compared to Europe. ..That is one of the reasons why I would like to give extra credits to Helen Zille and all those other great female activists here in South Africa!
The attached photograph shows two beautiful young South African women. One being from the Xhosa culture the other from the Coloured Community.