Every year on 9 August South Africa celebrates Women’s Day, a tribute to the women of the nation; the mothers, the wives, the sisters and the daughters who fought tirelessly against the oppressive Apartheid government. The historic march in 1956 was a turning point in the role of women in the struggle for freedom and society at large. Since that eventful day, women from all walks of life became equal partners in the struggle for a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.
Launched in 1994 the public holiday commemorates the 1956 Women’s Anti-Pass Law Campaign lead by Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu and Sophia Williams-De Bruyn. The Campaign defied both the apartheid government’s Group Areas Act No 41 of 1950, which forced the residential separation of races, and the pass laws that required black South Africans to carry a dompass. A dompass was a special identification document, which controlled black South Africans freedom of movement and was required when travelling outside their homelands and designated areas of the country.
Approximately 20 000 women of all races from across the country took to the streets of Pretoria, to stage a peaceful march to the Union Buildings. After dropping off bundles of petitions containing more than 100 000 signatures at the Prime Ministers J.G Strijdom’s office door, the women stood in defiant silence for thirty minutes; an inspiring display of political strength and female solidarity.
The march on 9 August 1956 is both a reminder of the great women who helped mould South Africa and the trailblazing women who continue to move the country forward. Women’s month 2015 will celebrate women achievers and their participation in the economy. The theme for 2015 is Women United in Moving South Africa Forward.