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Why do we celebrate Women’s Day?

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We celebrate Women’s Day in South Africa to commemorate the brave women who marched in protest to the Union buildings in 1956.

Women’s day in South Africa takes place on 9 August every year and is celebrated in honour of all the women who fought against the Apartheid government. More specifically, it is in homage to the more than 20,000 women of all races who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956. They did this to protest the pass laws. The march was led by four women, namely Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph, Sophy Williams and Lilian Ngoyi.

Through this protest, they handed a multitude of signed petitions to then Prime Minister JG Strijdom’s office and sang many freedom songs. One of the more famous ones include the words, “When you strike a woman, you strike a rock” or in its original language, “Wathint’ Abafazi Wathint’ imbokodo!” The women also spent 30 minutes standing in collective silence.

During apartheid, pass laws prohibited people of colour from entering ‘white areas’ if they did not have the relevant ID documentation. The pass laws were only repealed three decades after the protest, in 1986.


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