August is the month for celebrating women precisely because of the epic march by brave women on August 9, 1956, to Pretoria, in protest against the introduction of pass laws for black women.

From my early childhood, I knew how important this day was to women.

My late mom, may her soul rest in peace, never ceased telling me that she had missed out on being part of that all-important march by women to Pretoria because, as fate would have it, I was born 15 or so days before August 9. She was thus constrained by my birth.

Perhaps this grounds my early childhood activism to the point of missing out on my youth. Those my age, like me, missed out because we fought for freedom till uhuru dawned in 1994.

In part, in my case, I did it for my mom because she missed out on that historic day because of my birth.

Mothers without exception - as Mahatma Gandhi aptly put it when he said “Be the change you wish to see in the world” - wish us, their children to be the change we want in advancing the cause of positive humanity.

But humanity deliberately portrays the heroes and martyrs of the struggles for our freedom and democracy as having been achieved mainly through the sweat of male freedom fighters.

How fraught this notion is.

Jeanette Schoon and her six-year-old daughter, Katryn, were killed by a letter bomb in Lubango, Angola, in 1984. Their blood watered the freedom tree we harvest good fruits from today.

Ruth First suffered the same fate in Maputo, Mozambique, in 1982. Victoria Mxenge perished in Umlazi, Durban, in 1985.

The number of woman freedom fighters who lost their lives for humanity to live in a democratic society in South Africa is endless.

Can we pronounce proudly, as dictated by our Constitution, that everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected when we know that in some spheres of our economy, women executing the same business or work as men do, get remunerated far less than their male counterparts?

The beautifully worded UN General Assembly Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, assented to in 1979, in reality remains just that, beautiful. It is against any act which impairs women from enjoying fully their rights, inter alia in the economic terrain.

Besides earning less than their male counterparts at some workplaces, the majority of them remain unemployed or underemployed.

The necessary laborious long journey towards transforming our society from the patriarchal one to which we have always been accustomed, to an equitable society envisioned in our Constitution will not be realised by formulating UN conventions or legislating statutes of intent only, to free ourselves from patriarchy or even by simply celebrating days or months of historic significance in relation to women’s struggle to liberate us.

Dr Susan Mary Mahlalela, a jewel of excellence, was the first black woman to obtain a medical degree at Wits. It wasn’t so long ago for us to justify that we can’t remember. It was in 1947 when she graduated.

As recently as 1995, Judge Lucy Mailula was the first black woman appointed to the High Court of South Africa as a judge. I was ashamed that as a lawyer myself, I actually asked Kgomotso Moroka SC, the first black woman silk, where Judge Mailula is today. Moroka took silk in 2005.

Do I remember her being accorded the opportunity to chair any commission of enquiry of whatever form since the dawn of our democracy? I am certain that this has never occurred.

On April 12, Dr Mpho Tshivhase was the first black woman to graduate with a PhD in Philosophy. She graduated here at the University of Johannesburg.

What plausible cause can we advance as humanity for not celebrating women achievers during their lifetime by ensuring that they are supported to be the best they can be to advance the cause of humanity?

Patriarchy is still with us so much that we unconsciously overlook these glaring deficiencies in us.

* Moufhe is an advocate and a human and fundamental rights activist in Johannesburg

The Sunday Independent