By Thandiwe Kubere

MASERU – August marks a month of celebration and achievements of women from all walks of life in our diverse and thriving community, showcasing extraordinary examples of courage, triumph, kindness, compassion, transformation, skill and success. It celebrates the extraordinary accomplishments of self-identified women and gender-diverse role models. It is set to acknowledge the unique achievements of diverse women representing various sectors, career stages, and contributions to the advancement of their homes, communities and other women. It also honours the role of women in society. Women’s Month is a time to empower, honour, and celebrate the beauty and strength of women in our society today.

This month, impactful and influential women, as they all are in their different strides and spheres are recognized. Women who are believers, survivors of different hardships and those who are heroes of their stories, regardless of age, race, demographics or social standing get a chance to receive the appreciation they deserve-together. It is a month celebrating the victory of women achievements from all walks of life, in our diverse and thriving community, showcasing extraordinary examples of courage, triumph, kindness, compassion, transformation, skill and success. There is power in femininity, in sexuality, and in all types of appearances and perspectives.

Packed with stories of unsung heroes, community champions and women who have gone above and beyond in the course of their work, service and passions, an endeavour is taken, to highlight the exceptional accomplishments from women in Africa. This period marks a time where generations of inspirational women step forward, serving as a reminder that the march of women leaders continues, giving young girls’ courage.

August serves as a month for validation and visibility to women’s countless efforts in making this world a better place. It is within months as this, women meet and join hands to hasten career advancement, and consolidate each other’s’ career accomplishments. They put crowns on each other’s heads, sharing the necessary skills of how to keep a happy home, give appropriate training, empowerment and share networking opportunities.

However while there has been progress in terms of women representation in almost every field from commerce to aviation, sport and government, millions more are still living in extreme poverty and face daily struggles of unemployment, gender based violence and abuse. This is why it is important to celebrate Women’s Month – to celebrate how far women have come and understand how far they still need to go towards gender equality. What a big role they play in empowering each other, especially the youth.

It is significant to draw back and find some of the reasons women’s month is celebrated this particular month. In South Africa, it commemorates the day on which 20,000 iconic women of colour marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against amendments to the Apartheid laws.

On Thursday the 9th of August 1956, 20 000 women marched to petition against the enforcement of black women needing to carry passes under the Apartheid pass laws. The Pass Laws Act required people of colour to carry an identification document or ‘pass’ on them at all times. This controlled and restricted their freedom of movement under the Apartheid regime and, if unable to present a pass on request, they were refused access to what was known as whites-only areas.

The protest was organised by the anti-apartheid group, the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW), whose aim was to strengthen the voices and influence of women from all ethnicities in the movement towards a democratic society.

The protest was scheduled for a Thursday, a day on which traditionally the African domestic workers had leave from their jobs. This ensured that there would be enough multicultural women to take part and, sure enough, on the 9th of August, thousands of women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the centre of the South African government, and handed over a petition containing more than 100 000 signatures opposing the introduction of passes for African women.

During the procession of events, thousands of women stood silently outside Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom’s door for 30 minutes before singing the protest song, “Wathint’ Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo!” which translates to  “you have touch a woman, you have struck a rock”.

Later, this line of the protest song was adapted to the phrase, “Now you have struck a woman, you have struck a rock”. This phrase has come to represent the courage and strength of African women.

Some of the most revered freedom fighters and political activists that were involved in fighting for South Africa’s liberation include Fatima Meer, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Albertina Sisulu and Ruth First and many more.

To this day, women should still be granted their flowers where and when they are due.

Women’s Day quotes South Africa

The quote, “You strike a woman, you strike a rock,” has continued to inspire and strengthen women from all walks of life. Here are a few other women’s day South Africa quotes from the women who marched passes the same inspiration.

“If you are to free yourselves you must break the chains of oppression yourselves. Only then can we express our dignity, only when we have liberated ourselves can we cooperate with other groups. Any acceptance of humiliation, indignity or insult is acceptance of inferiority.” -Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

“Regardless of how many years we have spent in this life, we must get up and shout.” -Professor Fatima Meer

“I stand for simple justice, equal opportunity and human rights. The indispensable elements in a democratic society – and well worth fighting for.” -Helen Suzman

“Women are the people who are going to relieve us from all this oppression and depression. The rent boycott that is happening in Soweto [in 1956] is alive because of the women. It is the women who are on the street committees educating the people to stand up and protect each other.” -Albertina Sisulu

Info extracted from African Travel Canvas