Why South Africans celebrate Women’s Day on August 9

womens day south africa
Organised by the Federation of South African Women, the March was led by four brave women; Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Sophie Williams and Lilian Ngoyi. The lead­ers delivered peti­tions to Prime Minister JG Strijdom’s office within the Union Buildings.

Have you ever wondered why we cel­eb­rate Woman’s Day on the 9th August in South Africa?

It has noth­ing to do with hon­or­ing women just because we need another “Mother’s Day”, this day com­mem­or­ates the 9 August 1956 when women par­ti­cip­at­ing in a national march peti­tioned against pass laws.

For any­one who does not know the his­tory — “pass laws” were legis­la­tion that required African per­sons to carry a doc­u­ment on them to ‘prove’ that they were allowed to enter a ‘white area’ dur­ing the Apartheid regime.

Lillian Ngoyi © ANC

On this day in 1956, over 20 000 women of all races and ages from every corner of South Africa marched together towards the Union Buildings in Pretoria. These brave women were march­ing in protest against the pass laws that pro­posed even fur­ther restric­tions on the move­ments of women.

ALSO READ: Rahima Moosa, the liberation hero who never saw South Africa dawn in 1994

Women through­out South Africa had put their names to these peti­tions indic­at­ing their anger and frus­tra­tion at hav­ing their free­dom of move­ment restric­ted by the hated offi­cial passes.

To con­clude the Women’s March the women sang free­dom songs such as Nkosi sikeleli Afrika, how­ever, the song that became the anthem of the march was “Wathint’ aba­fazi, Strijdom!”

wath­int’ aba­fazi,
wath­int’ imbokodo,
uza kufa!

When you strike the women,
you strike a rock,
you will be crushed [you will die]!

The march was a resound­ing suc­cess and South Africa recog­nises the bravery of these women who risked arrest, deten­tion and ban­ning by declar­ing 9 August National Women’s Day.

Useful Links:
Women’s Struggle in South Africa — For any­one inter­ested in read­ing up more on this topic, this link will take you to the SA History site’s page on “The tur­bu­lent 1950s — Women as defi­ant act­iv­ists”. There is a lot of inter­est­ing inform­a­tion avail­able on this site.

This link — The Women’s March, 9 August 1956 — gives a very com­pre­hens­ive account of the pre­par­a­tions for and events of this day we now com­mem­or­ate every year. Interesting read­ing! We salute these won­der­ful Women.


About Indianspice Staff Reporter

Report and write stories for Indianspice.co.za. It is our ambitious goal to cover issues/events/news concerning South Africa and the diaspora.

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