On Air Feature
Origin of Women's Month and Day
Women United in Moving South Africa Forward
Theme: “The Year of OR Tambo: Women United in Moving South Africa Forward”.
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. These leaders delivered petitions to the then Prime Minister JG Strijdom’s office in the Union Buildings. Women throughout the country had put their names to these petitions indicating their anger and frustration at having their freedom of movement restricted by the hated official passes.
Women’s month is a tribute not only to the thousands of women who marched on that day in 1956, but also a tribute to the pioneers of the women’s movement in this country, dating back to 1913, when women like Charlotte Maxeke led the way in establishing the ANC Women’s League and encouraging women to engage in the struggle for freedom. Pioneers include Cissy, Jaynab and Amina Gool who were amongst the leaders of the National Liberation League and the Non-European United Front of the 1930s. The names of Ray Alexander Simons, Elizabeth Mafekeng and Elizabeth Abrahams will always be associated with the struggles of women.
In the 1940s Amina Pahad and Gadijah Christopher, who were amongst the first volunteers to occupy the site of the 1946 Passive Resistance Campaign on Umbilo Road in Durban cannot go unnoticed. Women’s month also service to recall and recognise the work of Dora Tamana, Winifred Siqwana, Ida Mntwana, Bertha Gxowa, Florence Matomela and other stalwarts of the 1950s, who led militant women’s formation for the rights of workers and the rights of women.
There were also the women who formed the Black Sashand who were the first to protest against the disenfranchisement of the Coloured voters during the 1950s. The Coloured voters played an important role in the united front of anti-apartheid forces that developed in the last three decades of apartheid.
Government has made significant progress in empowering women in the political, public and educational spheres, but the marginalisation of poor women severely compromises progress.