Women’s Day – 9 August

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10 May 2020
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“A strong woman stands up for herself.

A stronger woman stands up for everyone else.” 

 

On 9 August 1956, more than 20,000 South African women of all races staged a march on the Union Buildings in protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act of 1950, commonly referred to as the “pass laws”. The march was led by Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams. 

The ‘pass’ was an identification document which restricted a black South African’s freedom of movement under apartheid. the pass allowed them to enter ‘white’ areas. The ‘pass’ had come into force under the Urban Areas Act (commonly known as the pass laws) of 1950.

On August 9th 1956, 20,000 women staged a march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against proposed amendments to the act. They left petitions containing more than 100,000 signatures at prime minister J.G. Strijdom’s office door. They stood silently outside his door for 30 minutes.

The women then sang a protest song that was composed in honour of the occasion: Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.).

In the 60 years since the vents of 1956, the phrase has come to represent women’s courage and strength in South Africa.

National Women’s Day was first celebrated as a national holiday in 1995.

In 2006 a reenactment of the march was staged for its 50th anniversary, with many of the 1956 march veterans attending.

The month of August is now dedicated to women and is marked by several government events such as a trade fair for women’s crafts and a symposium on labour issues.