South Africa Marks 100 Years of Women’s Struggles

President Jacob Zuma will tomorrow, 09 August 2013,lead the country in celebrating 100 years of the contribution of women to the struggle for liberation and also in building a better South Africa.

This year’s theme, “/A Centenary of Working Together towards Sustainable Women Empowerment and Gender Equality”/’ captures the road travelled by women in 100 years of fighting for freedom and also in the pursuit of equality in a better South Africa. The main event will be held at Thulamahashe stadium in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga.

The 2013 celebration takes on a more special meaning as we celebrate 100 years since the march by women led by Charlotte Maxeke in Bloemfontein in 2013, protesting against pass laws.

The objectives of the 2013 Women’s Month are the following:

·To promote women’s socio-economic freedom.

·To promote the prevention of violence against women and girls.

·To enhance the uptake of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics by girls in tertiary institutions.

·To promote the access of land ownership by women.

·To create platforms for young women’s movement aimed at building self-confidence and leadership opportunities and,

·To promote social cohesion and nation building.

Women have engaged in various struggles for decades since the first march led by Charlotte Maxeke in the Free State in 1913.

The second episode was in 1930 in Potchefstroom against lodgers’ permits. In February 1954 as well, a crowd of 700 marched to the administration building in the New Brighton township of Port Elizabeth, demanding that the manager of Native affairs take back all the residence permits he had issued.

In October 1955, 1 000 women were protesting in front of the Native administration building in Durban. In Cape Town, hundreds of women marched through the streets in protest of the permit regulations. We also recall the 1957 anti-pass revolt by women in Zeerust and the struggles by women against beerhalls in areas such as Cato Manor in Durban.

The major campaign was masterminded in Johannesburg from 1954-1956, culminating in the march in 1956 of nearly 20 000 women on the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

This historic march, the date of which became National Women’s Day in the calendar of a free South Africa, was coordinated by the Federation of South African Women, and was led by four women; Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams-De Bruyn who is with us today.

These leaders delivered petitions to the then Prime Minister JG Strydom’s office in the Union Buildings, indicating the anger of women at having their freedom of movement restricted by the hated official passes.

The August 1956 Pretoria march was supported by smaller on-going protests, for example, in Cradock, 300 women assembled in front of the magistrate’s office while a deputation presented the magistrate with a memorandum.

Women’s month is thus a tribute not only to the thousands of women who marched on that day in 1956, but also a tribute to the pioneers of the women’s movement in this country, dating back to 1913.

“We are celebrating 100 years of the contribution of women to freedom and to building a better South Africa. The struggles of women yielded results. South Africa is today a constitutional democracy where gender equality is also a constitutional imperative. Our Constitution recognises women as equal citizens, with equal rights and responsibilities”, said President Zuma ahead of the national celebration tomorrow, 9 August 2013.

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