Johannesburg (Nisaa FM) - Throughout the month of August, South Africa every year celebrates Women’s Month as a tribute to the more than 20 000 women who on 9 August 1956 marched to the Union Buildings in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.
The Pass Laws of the Apartheid regime were a form of internal passport system used, amongst other things, to segregate the population and limit the movements of the black African populace. According to these laws, the black population had to carry pass books with them whenever the left their homelands or designated areas. For the first many years, the legislation largely applied to African men. However, in the 1950s, the Government made its second attempt to extend the Pass Law requirements to women, thereby severely restricting women’s freedom of movement. Protests against this policy culminated with the historic march of 1956, a turning point in the role of women in the overall struggle against the Apartheid regime. As of 9 August 1956, women from all over South Africa became equal partners in the struggle for a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa. In 1994, the Government of South Africa made August 9th a public holiday, and has since declared August Women’s Month as a tribute to the thousands of women who marched on that day in 1956.
The overall theme for this year’s Women’s Month is “Women United in Moving South Africa Forward”. Staring on July 30th and ending on September 9th, activities are hosted across the country under four sub-themes: celebrating women in fashion; celebrating women in film; the fight against human trafficking and labor exploitation of women; and economic empowerment (financial inclusion of women). As part of a campaign building up to the march’s 60th anniversary next year, Susan Shabangu, the minister in the Presidency responsible for women affairs, stated at the Month’s official launch in Pretoria on July 30th that women’s issues will remain a prime priority also after the last events of Women’s Month have taken place. Referring to the many challenges women in South Africa face today, including sexual and gender-based violence, Ms Shabangu said that “from the beginning of November, we will engage women in national dialogues, making sure we understand why we still have these challenges.”
The last activities of this year’s Women’s Month focused on the economic empowerment of women in line with the African Union’s themes under the African Women’s Decade. On September 4th and 5th, a Trade Fair and Exhibition of Women in South Africa and Zimbabwe allowed women from both countries to showcase and sell their products. The last event, on September 9th, will be in the form of a New Age business breakfast focusing on the empowerment of young women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Photo credits: African Queen Projects