It was August 9, 1956 - not a good time to be black and, especially, to be a black woman in our country. Although the heroines named above and many other brave South African women are in our struggle firmament today, their defiant acts happened out of enormous courage. We cannot forget this.
We must tell our children and make sure these stories become part of what they tell their children, too. But we can’t soft-soap the truth for many South African women today. And that is that they live in a hazardous country where even the police and government seem to be largely unable to protect them in the war against violence and abuse. It’s a serious state of affairs.
We know that women in Afghanistan battle profound discrimination. We know that many girls in Pakistan are not able to attend school. We are terrorised by the thought of female mutilation in some African countries.
Yet, even with our magnificent constitution and a ruling party which unequivocally supports the equality of women, we would fall into the category of countries where it’s hard and often dangerous to be a woman. The global rate of femicide for 2015 was 2.4 per 100 000 women. South Africa’s rate for the same year was 9.6 per 100 000 women.
We recall the names of Karabo Mokoena, Schane Bowman, Zolile Khumalo, Nicola Pienaar, Sheila Kopanye, Jayde Panayiotou, Sharnelle Hough, Marna Engelbrecht and Nomsa Mbuyisa.
However, it would be wrong to say the government is not trying. It would be wrong to say the national police commissioner does not have violence against women on his radar, or that there are no mechanisms in place to try to counteract the horrifying femicide statistics.
Equally, there are many NGOs working relentlessly at staving off the abuse that has torn families apart and destroyed women’s lives. Yet there is no end in sight - and what a tragedy for us as a nation.
We are truly not yet free.