The 1956 women¿s march in South Africa. Leading women are, front from left, Sophie Williams, Raheema Moosa, Helen Joseph and Lilian Ngoyi.

This month represents an opportunity to uphold women’s achievements, recognise challenges,and focus greater attention on women’s rights, writes Chichi Maponya.

Every year on August 9 we celebrate Women’s Day, a day which reminds us to pay tribute to the women of our nation – the mothers, the wives, the sisters and the daughters who fought indefatigably against the oppression of the apartheid regime.

Introduced in 1994, along with a free, democratic South Africa, this week we commemorated the 59th anniversary of an inspiring display of strength, female solidarity and endurance.

The march on August 9, 1956 led by Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu and Sophia Williams-De Bruyn is a reminder of the women who courageously broke barriers.

Their legacy continues to inspire women to challenge the status quo and pursue fields that are not always “women-friendly”. Our collective success continues to be a tribute to the fearless women of 1956 who challenged a brutal and oppressive system.

These women have made it easier for us to enjoy the rights and freedoms we do today. As part of the annual commemorative activities for Women’s Month in South Africa, this year we pay special homage to all women, regardless of colour and creed, who set the tone for generations to come.

I am reminded at this time of the year of exemplary women, such as Charlotte Maxeke, who were active in the anti-pass laws demonstrations.

It is the courageous sacrifices of Maxeke which paved the way for women such as Dr Mary Susan Malahlela, the first black woman to graduate as a doctor in 1947.

In more recent times, we celebrate women such as Nonkululeko Gobodo, the first black woman chartered accountant in South Africa, who is a founding member of the country’s largest black-owned accounting firm, SizweNtsalubaGobodo.

It is young women such as 35-year-old Asnath Mahapa, the first black woman in the country to become a pilot, who now runs her own aviation academy in Gauteng.

Let’s celebrate the women who leave behind their varying professional and personal legacies to inspire us and remember the trailblazers as you make your own career strides.

This month represents an opportunity to uphold women’s achievements, recognise challenges,and focus greater attention on women’s rights and gender equality to mobilise all people to play their part.

* Maponya is Brand SA chairwoman. Follow her on @ChichiMaponya. Contribute to the conversation on #CompetitiveSA

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent