Thursday, August 10, 2006
In South Africa: 1956
In Switzerland: 2006
It’s 50 years ago and I am able to say: “I was in our beloved South Africa when the Women’s marched, at their risk and peril, for their rights!” They didn’t accept the “dompas”
and they were so right!
" Passes mean prison; passes mean broken homes; passes mean suffering and misery for every
African family in our country; passes are just another way in which the Government makes slaves
of the Africans; passes mean hunger and unemployment; passed are an insult..."
"(African women) shall not rest until ALL pass laws and all forms of permits restricting our freedoms
have been abolished. We shall not rest until we have won for our children their fundamental rights
of freedom, justice and security."
And they knew what they were talking about because, day after day, they faced
the police asking for the “dompas” even within the walls of our classrooms!
So the women got together:
On August 9, 1956, 20,000 women from all parts of South Africa staged a second march on the
Union Buildings. Prime Minister Strijdom, who had been notified of the women`s mission,
was not there to receive them. In lieu of a meeting, the women left bundles of petitions
containing more than 100,000 signatures at the Prime Minister`s door.
Outside the Government building, they stood silently for 30 minutes,
their hands raised in the Congress salute.
The women concluded their demonstration by singing freedom songs,
including a new one composed especially for the occasion:
Wathint` abafazi, Strijdom!
Wathint` imbokodo uzo kufa!
Now you have touched the women, Strijdom!
You have struck a rock (You have dislodged a boulder!)
You will be crushed!
The struggle is not over yet! In August 2006!
So they keep marching led by Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
She urged women to work together.
"You cannot do it alone. You must do it with one another."
At the Union Buildings, marchers handed President Thabo Mbeki a memorandum
calling for the benefits freedom to reach the poor.
"As government, business and civil society, we should, even today, ask ourselves
as to what have we done in the past 12 years to remove all laws, regulations,
conventions and customs that discriminate against women."
Mbeki urged the marchers to remember and be inspired by their heroines.
Yet in spite of government's best intentions, a full 58 percent of all contact crimes
were committed against women and children, with 151 women and
children being raped daily,or one every 10 minutes.
"Women are still the primary victims of crime, especially the brutal crime of rape and abuse."
Two women laugh during a traditional dance held at the end of a domestic violence workshop.
Yes, the struggle goes on, the world over and we are grateful for the God’s given courage
of the Women of South Africa!