LETTER: Remember the women that paved the way

2016-08-09 06:00

Imagine the scene: The year is 1956 and South Africa’s skewed policies have become increasingly repressive, directly influencing the livelihoods of millions of South Africans.

In the midst of this turbulence, more than 20 000 brave women, of all races and walks of life, stood together to march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, protesting the “pass laws” that were threatening not only their freedom, but also their family life.

As they stood outside the official seat of the president, they began to sing a special song: “Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.)”

“I felt a lump in my throat when I looked at this large army of women: dignified women, courageous women. I felt so humbled to be part of such bravery,” one of the leaders of the march, Sophia Williams de Bruyn, said. She was joined at the front of the crowd by Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa.

Although women had been politically active for some time before the march, the protest would become the ultimate show of political strength and solidarity from the women of South Africa.

Today, 40 years later, the phrase, which has evolved to “you strike a woman, you strike a rock”, remains as true as ever. Women remain at the forefront of the fight for social justice in equality with a new generation of young student activists like Farai Mubaiwa, Fasiha Hassan and Lindiwe Dhlamini already proving their willingness to take up the mantle.

In a more domestic setting, women are undoubtedly the backbone of our communities. From the Oumas who make sure their grandchildren are clothed and fed, to the mother’s working more than one job to keep their family afloat, and the daughters who help.

In a world still rife with patriarchy and inequality, it’s important to take the time to remember the women who helped pave the way for a better South Africa and to celebrate the women who continue to fight for an inclusive society.

As author Diane Mariechild says: “A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.”

Proud Woman


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