Image credit: @luciadong
The year is 1956, the 9th of August to be exact. The Pretoria air is warm with the first signs of spring. The atmosphere is rife with determination and tenacity. 20 000 women are gathered, adorned in traditional dress, Congress colours or Saris, with their own – and their white employers’ – children alongside them or strapped to their backs.
Women from all over the country have come to march to the Union Buildings, dignified and orderly, to protest the pass laws that were enforced on African women, restricting their freedom of movement. This was the Federation of South African Women’s biggest and most significant demonstration and the birth of National Women’s Day.
Image credit: @royaannmiller
This disciplined display of defiance is one of the first notable acts of bravery carried out by South African women in the vain of self-empowerment and resistance that would come to be synonymous with the spirit of South African women overall. Every day, South African women are making their voices heard and creating a space for themselves in an unequal society wrought with the intricacies of patriarchy, whilst bearing the memory of a painful past.
Through owning our purpose, defining our own future and proudly expressing ourselves. Through our language, fashion and opinions, we, the women of South Africa, are making sure we get noticed. After decades of being silenced, we have plenty to say. Just as the women of the march solemnly and proudly owned their silence for 30 minutes before triumphantly singing “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica”, we too honour our previously stifled voices and respond proudly with the song of our individual and collective power.
Women of South Africa, this women’s day we salute you and your relentless spirit. We support your every endeavour and appreciate your ongoing effort to forge the identity of your dreams, despite everyone else’s expectations. Always remember in the face of adversity, the immortal words echoed at the 1956 march: wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo, uza kufa!