Nelson Mandela Museum: Celebrating Women's Month

Celebrating woman’s month in South Africa is a commemoration of the 1956 march of approximately 20, 000 women of all races who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to partition against the country’s pass laws that required black South Africans to carry an internal passport as regulated by the Population Registration Act. The Act served to maintain population segregation, control urbanisation, and manage migrant labour during the apartheid era.

The march was led by Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams. Other participants include ed Frances Baard. The women left 14,000 petitions at the doors of then Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom. The women stood silently for 30 minutes and then started singing a protest song that was composed in honour of the occasion: Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock). Today, the phrase “you strike a woman, you strike a rock”- is commonly associated or represent women’s courage in South Africa.

The Significance of Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo

The National Women’s Day, celebrated on the 9th August every year in South Africa. The Day draws attention to significant issues African women still face such as parenting, domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, pornography, unequal pay, and schooling for all girls including sanitary towels. This day can be used to protest for or fight for these ideas. Due to this public holiday, these has been many significant advances, after 1994, women representation in the national assembly has hugely increased. As a way to commemorate this day and its significant, we remember the women of 1956 and those who followed after them.