Today is National Women’s Day

TODAY, 9 August is Women's Day and the month of August is National Women's Month to celebrate women's achievements and the important role that women of all races and religions have played and continue to play in South Africa.

Twenty thousand women from all walks of life and from all corners of the country marched to Pretoria's Union Buildings on 9 August 1956, to present a petition against the carrying of passes by women to the then prime minister, JG Strijdom.

Women from all walks of life and from all corners of the country, united in this mass demonstration march to the Union Buildings. They were protesting against the unjust, unfair and demoralising amendments to the Urban Areas Act, which would involve the hated pass laws.

They left bundles of petitions listing more than 100 000 signatures at the office door of the prime minister. Outside they stood silently for 30 minutes and then sang a specially composed song, Wathint' Abafazi Wathint’ Imbokokodo (now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock).

Since then the phrase, “you strike a woman, you strike a rock' has come to represent the courage and strength of South African women.

Some of the points made in the petition were: "We are women of every race, we come from the cities and the towns, from the reserves and the villages. We come as women united in our purpose to save the African women from the degradation of passes.

“In the name of women of South Africa, we say to you, each one of us, African, European, Indian, Coloured, that we are opposed to the pass system.

We voters and voteless, call upon your government not to issue passes to African women.

“We shall not rest until all pass laws and all forms of permits restricting our freedom have been abolished.

We shall not rest until we have won for our children their fundamental rights of freedom, justice, and security.''

In remembrance of what women achieved on that day, 9 August was declared National Women's Day in 1995.

August, as Women's Month is an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on women's achievements, as well as the problems they have faced in the struggle to be free and the important role they continue to play in society.

Apart from their traditional roles as mothers, wives and caregivers, statistics show that women are in business, politics, academic and economic careers with more women reaching top positions

International Women's Day was first celebrated in Europe in March 1911 - over 1 000 000 people marched in a series of rallies demanding the right to vote, to hold public office and the end of job discrimination.

Since 1917, 8 March is International Women's Day. This day is also commemorated at the United Nations and is designated in many countries as a national holiday.

International Women's Day is the story of ordinary women as makers of history.

It is rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal footing with men. In ancient Greece, Lysistrata initiated a sexual strike against men in order to end war, and during the French Revolution, Parisian women calling for "liberty, equality, fraternity" marched on Versailles to demand women's suffrage.

Born at a time of great social turbulence and crisis, International Women's Day inherited a tradition of protest and political activism '

International Women's Day is not celebrated in South Africa. - SA History on Line.

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