What Does Women's Day Mean To You?

By Amanda Hawker

It’s almost August, which means in South Africa we’ll be celebrating Women’s Day very soon. Women’s Day, which takes place annually on the 9th of August is a public holiday which honours the women who fought bravely and tirelessly against the tyranny of the Apartheid system.

So here’s the history:
On the 9th of August in 1956, a group of women led by Albertina Sisulu, Helen Joseph and Lilian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams, protested publicly in response to the infamous Apartheid legislation which made it mandatory for all black South Africans to carry a “pass”, (a special form of identity which contained details of their employment history and rights of residence and limited the freedom of movement.)
On the morning of 9 August, upwards of 20 000 women from all over the country, from all walks of life took to the streets of Pretoria and marched peacefully to the Union Buildings. Many of these women, it was reported, were domestic workers, who partook in the march carrying the children of their white bosses on their backs. With them, they carried bundles of petitions with more than 100 000 signatures which they planned to deliver to the office of Prime Minister, J.G. Strijdom.

After delivering the bundles of petitions, the women stood in complete silence for a full thirty minutes. To conclude the Women's March the women sang freedom songs such as Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. The women also sang a song which they’d composed specifically for the march. It went: “Wathint' Abafazi Wathint' imbokodo!” (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.)
 Now, fifty six years later the connotations of the famous chant have shifted slightly, with the meaning morphing into "you strike a woman, you strike a rock"). The times have moved on and South Africa is a democracy with its own unique growing pains.

What it means to me personally:
To me, the of that stupendous gathering of women – wives, mothers, daughters and sisters - standing silently yet solidly resolute, many of them with their masters’ children on their backs is a poignant reminder that the strength of a nation is built on the backs of its women. And by that, I don’t mean just South Africa the country, but Africa, the continent. Researching the heroes of our continent is a hobby of mine and has led me to discovering so many stories of phenomenal women who have shown us all what it means to be a proud African woman.

What does Women’s Day mean to you?
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