31/07/2014. Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women Susan Shabangu and Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa leave the Union Buildings after addressing the media about the upcomimg events around Women's Month. Picture: Masi Losi

Pretoria - Women’s contribution to South Africa’s liberation is immense, but often overlooked. Because of this, the government will build national monuments in honour of great South African women, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa said on Thursday. He made the announcement before Women’s Day which is celebrated on August 9.

Launching the Women’s Month commemoration programme at the Union Buildings, Mthethwa said: “August 9 should not just be a day we commemorate and then forget about it. That is why we have plans to build a Heroes’ Acre, a national monument, to trace the country’s liberation through women.”

Women’s roles in the fight against apartheid were not narrated well, he said. “The Struggle by women starts as far back as 1913. The defiance campaign did not start when Helen Joseph, Sophie de Bruyn and others marched to the Union Buildings. The women who took part in the defiance campaign have faces and names. It is time we honour them. It is time we know them like we know other leaders.”

Mthethwa said the Department of Arts and Culture was finalising plans for the monument that would most likely be erected in the capital city. “It only makes sense that the monument be in the centre of power - which is in Pretoria,” he said.

Mthethwa said construction of the R168 million Sarah Baartman Centre for Remembrance at Hankey in the Eastern Cape has already started. The centre is being built adjacent to the grave where Baartman was reburied on Women’s Day in 2002. Baartman, of Khoisan descent, was born in 1789 and taken to London when she was 20. There she was put on display because Europeans were fascinated by her body shape.

Mthethwa said it was impossible to share the South African story while ignoring the role of women.

Minister of Women Susan Shabangu said this year’s commemorations were about celebrating the 60th anniversary of the signing of the women’s charter. On August 9, the main celebration will be held at Durban’s Absa Stadium.

“On Monday, the Department of Human Settlements will launch its annual Women’s Build project. This will see 1 956 houses being built in each province. The Department of Health will launch a cellphone-based application called MOM Connect to track pregnant women.”

The app would register all pregnant women to assist them through pregnancy and birth. Shabangu said: “Our nation is not free until all women are safe, free and accorded the respect and dignity they deserve.”

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