On 9 August South Africa will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the iconic 1956 Women’s March under the theme “Women United in Moving South Africa Forward”.
The 1956 march and others before by thousands of fearless women are testament to the role of women in bringing about South Africa’s democracy. During the 1956 march about 20 000 women of all races marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the discriminatory pass laws which had restricted the movement of black people in the country.
This seminal moment in South Africa’s history has been celebrated since 1995 as Women’s Day, and is the focal point of Women’s Month celebrations. During Women’s Month South Africa recognises the important role of political activism by women during the struggle for liberation against colonisation and apartheid.
Womens’ Month is also an opportunity to reflect on the gains made since 1994. Over the past 22 years South Africa has made significant inroads insofar as gender parity and women empowerment is concerned. South Africa has made noteworthy progress in putting in place legislation and policy frameworks for advancing equality and empowerment for women.
The South African Government has also been at the forefront of initiatives to ensure greater women empowerment. In September 2015 a Presidential Directive was issued and instructed that the Economic Cluster Ministers ensure women’s economic empowerment is placed centrally in the implementation of their departmental programmes and in the Nine-Point Plan to grow the economy.
Despite the significant progress over the last 22 years in changing the lives of women, many women continue to face obstacles such as limited access to economic opportunities. Education of young women remains a pressing challenge with most girls not being able to complete their secondary education. Among the reasons are early pregnancy, marriage and being forced to stay at home to help with children.
In commemoration of the 60th anniversary, this year’s National Women’s Day event will take place at the Union Buildings, Pretoria on 9 August 2016. It will relive the spirit of the women of 1956 through a celebration walk from Lillian Ngoyi Square to the Union Buildings.
During the symbolic celebration, women will walk, run and cycle to the Union Buildings dressed in clothing that represents their trade, affiliation, academic background, profession or workplace.