‘You strike a woman, you strike a rock’

‘You strike a woman, you strike a rock’

We are women from every part of South Africa. We shall not rest until we have won for our children their fundamental rights of freedom, justice, and security. – Taken from a Petition presented to the Prime Minister on 9 August 1956.

If you are getting ready to celebrate Women’s Day tomorrow, but you don’t know where it all began, then you have to read this.

How it all began

On 9 August 1956 about 20 000 women participated in a national march in protest of pass laws (apartheid legislation that required people of colour to carry identity documentation to prove that they were allowed to enter a ‘white’s only’ area).

The march was organised by the Federation of South African Women (FSAW) and was led by four remarkable women: Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophie Williams-De Bruyn.

Women in Lesotho at a National Women’s Day protest against violence against women at the National University of Lesotho

These were women of all races and ages who got together from all over South Africa and marched at the Pretoria Union Buildings, goaded into action by the fact that the law was about to be changed to restrict “African” women’s freedom of movement even further. They delivered their petitions, signed by frustrated and angry women across the country, to then Prime Minister JG Strijdom’s office, then sang freedom songs including the well-known, powerful one – “When you strike a woman, you strike a rock”.

South Africa had just become a democratic country at the time, and the day was declared a national holiday. Since then annual celebrations take place throughout the country. It has become one of the national holidays where activities are organised with women in prominent positions making appearances and giving speeches at different venues across the country. August has since been declared National Women’s Month.

So use the day off to pamper yourself, to have fun with your family, to come and go as you please – but remember if it wasn’t for these brave women many of us would not enjoy the freedom we have today to do these simple things.

Sources: Wikipedia

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