Women’s Day: 66 years of struggle, women are still not safe

It has been 66 years since thousands of women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to fight for freedom and protested against the extension of passing laws for women.

Yesterday, hundreds of women came out in their green ANC attire to celebrate the heroines from the past in the park at the Union Buildings. Gauteng premier David Makhura and MEC for sport, arts, culture and recreation Mbali Hlophe greeted female officers from the SA Police Service and the Tshwane Metro Police Department, parading with the police band.

Poet Ntsiki Mazwai performed Hey Black Gal before the panellists, including Sophia de Bruyn, the only surviving leader of the historic 1956 women’s march and a former anti-apartheid activist, and others discussed various issues women faced in South Africa. De Bruyn said disconnection was still very much in place.

“I am not sure if I should say that the disconnect comes from disunity. When I look at all these faces, all our people sitting here, I’m wondering what is it, are we in a place we should be?” she said. De Bruyn said the army of women she saw in front of her reminded her of another time and place.

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“Sixty-six years ago, this is what I see here. That was a time of unity, 66 years ago the women I recognised as an army of women were brave, courageous and determined. Nothing could hold them back. I see determination here too,” she said.

One of the marchers, Kgomotho Kwapa said it was important o celebrate the heroines of the past to build the future. Kwapa said it was her first time attending a Women’s Day event. “I am still young but I can see my mother and them struggled. Here, we come to celebrate Women’s Day, but the reality is we are not safe in the street. There is no peace anymore, so we want to bring back peace again,” she said.

Kwapa said she wanted more women in parliament to inspire young girls to grow instead of accepting suffering. Another marcher, Santo Mohlake, said she was very excited to celebrate Women’s Day with her fellow sisters. “It has been long since we celebrated because of Covid restrictions,” she said.

Mohlake said it was important to commemorate the women who struggled and not to forget. “That time, in the 1950s the white people didn’t like the black people, so they made them struggle. Until 1956 when Winnie Madikizela-Mandela called for us to have ID books and not bus passes,” she said.

Mohlake said on Women’s Day she cannot help but be reminded of what her grandmother endured during the apartheid struggle. “It wasn’t a nice time. White people gave black people leftovers in the dog bowls. It was a sad time,” she added.

Another marcher, Francian Bambo, said she was celebrating Women’s Day for the eight women who were recently raped and robbed in Krugersdorp. “We are marching for them, too,” she said. “Women are suffering. Women and children are being murdered and raped. So today we will dance for them,” Bambo said.

Another participant, Samkelo Malinga, who lived in a shelter and usually searched for food at the Union Buildings, said the problem in SA was a lack of education in terms of protecting oneself and life skills in general.

“The white women were okay but our black women were still oppressed. The black people lacked education and are still oppressed,” he said.

Malinga said he believed the ANC was doing this purposely. “The more of our people become educated, they will learn about their mistakes and kick them out. So, they have to keep them uneducated,” he said. – [email protected]

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