Today, 2Utes in South Africa are observing Women’s Day in celebration of the inspiring and courageous women who fought and continue to fight for equality and inclusion of all in South Africa. While International Women’s Day, on March 8, is similarly a celebration and a call to action for accelerating gender parity, Women’s Day in South Africa identifies with a specific historical event that occurred on August 9, 1956.
In 1956, members of the Federation of South African Women (“FSAW/FEDSAW”) organised one of the largest demonstrations in South African history as part of the women of our nation’s struggle against Apartheid government. Approximately 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, one of South Africa’s three capital cities, to present petitions signed by more than 100,000 women against the country’s pass laws. The pass laws required Black South Africans over the age of 16 to carry an internal passport, or pass, that restricted their movement by stipulating where they were allowed to work and travel. The penalty for being without a pass was arrest and jail.
After handing over the petitions, the crowd of women stood in silence for 30 minutes in a non-violent, powerful, and inspiring display of political strength before concluding their demonstration by singing freedom songs, including Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika and a new chant composed for the occasion:
Wathint’ abafazi, Strijdom!
Wathint’ imbokodo uzo kufa!
Now you have touched the women, Strijdom!
You have struck a rock (you have dislodged a boulder)
You will be crushed!
Since August 9, 1956, the phrase “you strike a woman, you strike a rock” has come to represent women’s courage and strength.
As we unite to celebrate all the incredible women in our lives, we bring you a short video message from some of our 2Utes in Cape Town. They share inspirational words of solidarity and courage in commemoration of Women’s Day.
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