Pretoria - As Women’s Month kick off today, many inspiring South African women will be celebrated for the changes that they have enabled throughout the country’s history.
Every year in August, the country marks Women’s Month, paying tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on August 9, 1956 in protest against the extension of the Pass Laws to women.
This year marks the 67th anniversary of the mass march of women to the Union Buildings to petition against the pass laws of the country at the time.
The government’s programme this month is based on ongoing interventions across the work of government, civil society and the private sector within the context of the national priorities outlined by the government.
It said that Women’s Month allows the nation to gauge how far the country has come in transforming society, particularly the transformation of unequal power relations between women and men.
This month, the government will also focus on addressing gender oppression, patriarchy, sexism, racism, ageism, and structural oppression and creating a conducive environment which enables women to take control of their lives.
Some of the strong, courageous women in South Africa’s history, as celebrated during this month in 2020 by the SA College of Applied Psychology, included Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Suzman, Miriam Makeba and Professor Thuli Madonsela.
Known as “the Mother of Black Resistance”, Ngoyi was a powerful anti-apartheid public speaker who focused on women’s rights and the emancipation of black women in South Africa.
She was the first woman elected to the ANC NEC and also served as president of the ANC Women’s League. In 1956, Ngoyi became president of the Federation of SA Women, which she had helped to form. In the same year, she helped lead the 20 000 women in protest against the pass laws.
The SA College of Applied Psychology, meanwhile, described Suzman as an anti-apartheid, human rights activist and politician who pursued racial and gender equality. She was the founding member of the Progressive Party.
For 13 years, she was the only consistent voice in Parliament, uncompromisingly opposing all apartheid legislation. During this period, she made 885 speeches and posed 2 262 questions. As a result, she was accused by politicians of embarrassing South Africa overseas. Her bold reply was, “It is not my questions that embarrass South Africa. It is your answers.”
South Africa will also never forget Makeba, also known as “Mama Africa” and “the Empress of African Song”. She was a singer and human rights campaigner who was in exile for 31 years.
She sang in Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho and English. She was the first African recording artist to win a Grammy Award. ‘’Mama Africa’’ stood up against apartheid by using her music to sing about her life and her fellow South Africans’ lived experiences.
Post-Apartheid, she became a South African UN Goodwill Ambassador.
Also hailed by the SA College of Applied Psychology was Madonsela – the public protector from 2009 to 2016. As a lifelong activist, she has championed social justice, rule of law and good governance. She was one of the Constitution’s drafters and co-architect of democracy promotion and protection laws, such as the Promotion of Equality. She is described as a symbol of justice and courage.