We owe it to the women of 1956

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cape Town – The Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Susan Shabangu, says South Africans owe their freedom to the courage of the women activists, who participated in the historic 1956 women’s march to the Union Buildings.

The Minister said this when she participated in a debate on Women’s Day during a joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament at the National Assembly on Thursday.

“The fruits of democracy that we enjoy today are because of the heroic exploits of these women, who gave their all to the liberation of our country… without any expectation of reward.

“Our foremothers will forever remain the primary catalysts for change and trendsetters,” she said.

On 9 August 1956, about 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings to deliver a petition to the apartheid government in protest against the extension of pass laws to women.

The historic march in 1956 was a turning point in the role of women in the struggle for freedom and society at large.

Since that eventful day, women from all walks of life became equal partners in the struggle for a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.

The march was coordinated by the Federation of South African Women (Fedsaw), led by four women: Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams De Bruyn.

This year, President Jacob Zuma unveiled a women’s monument in Pretoria, which has the statues of these four women activists. De Bruyn attended the launch.

Minister Shabangu said the contribution that the women made is also the reason that South Africans are enjoying the rights that are enshrined in the Constitution.

“The Constitution, which we just celebrated its 20th anniversary, is one of SA’s greatest achievements.

“Today South Africa is a better place to live in. It is so good that now we have freedom of expression, association and the right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and petition because of these women’s struggle and the demands in the women’s charter.

“Black people voted for the first time in this country in 1994. All citizens of all races and gender voted [with the exception of] those that exercised their right not to vote.

“It is because of our foremothers, the stalwarts … that on the 3rd of August, we exercised once more our right to vote,” she said.

The Minister said celebrating the recent free and fair elections also afforded the country an opportunity to celebrate the progress that has been made to achieve gender parity.

She said that today, women serve at higher courts and they constitute 34% of lower courts and 45% of the judiciary.

“We celebrate in partnership with the South African Chapter of Association of Women Churches. As we celebrate this, the first women in South Africa, acting Deputy Chief Justice Judge Baaitse "Bess" Nkabinde, and the recent appointment of the eight members of the international association of women judges in our country.”

The Minister also cited the appointment of Supreme Court of Appeal Justice Nonkosi Mhlantla as a Constitutional Court judge, making it three women at the court, as well as the appointment of Judge Mandisa Maya, who was appointed as the first Deputy Judge President of the Supreme Court.

“I am saying all this because for all of us, it is the women of 1956 who made it to happen,” the Minister said.

The Minister said government was doing all it can to empower women. She called on corporate South Africa to contribute towards ensuring that women and children get quality education and skills development. – SAnews.gov.za

Most Read