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South Africa’s women’s day 2023


National Women's Day in South Africa is a powerful day for equal rights

National Women's Day is a South African public holiday commemorating the 1956 march of approximately 20,000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition containing more than 100,000 signatures against the country's pass laws that required South Africans defined as "black" under The Population Registration Act to carry an internal passport, known as a pass, that served to maintain population segregation, control urbanisation, and manage migrant labour during the apartheid era.

The 1956 protest saw members of the Federation of South African Women (FSAW) rally against the Apartheid government. The protest was supported by mothers, daughters, sisters and friends who decided enough was enough and came together to initiate change. Not only did they march, they remained standing outside the Union Buildings in silence for 30 minutes in a non-violent and very powerful display of unity.

The first National Women's Day was celebrated on 9 August 1995. In 2006, a reenactment of the march was staged for its 50th anniversary, with many of the 1956 march veterans participating.


Women's Living Heritage Monument at Lillian Ngoyi Square in Pretoria


The group's constitution stated the objectives of the Federation were to bring the women of South Africa together to secure full equality of opportunity for all women, regardless of race, colour or creed; to remove social, legal, and economic disabilities; to work for the protection of the women and children.

A Women`s Charter was written at the Federation's first conference and called for the enfranchisement of men and women of all races; equality of opportunity in employment; equal pay for equal work; equal rights in relation to property, marriage, and children; and the removal of all laws and customs that denied women such equality. The Charter further demanded paid maternity leave, childcare for working mothers, and free and compulsory education for all South African children.

National Women's Day draws attention to significant issues African women still face, such as parenting, domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, unequal pay, and schooling for all girls. It can be used as a day to fight for or protest these ideas. Due to this public holiday, there have been many significant advances. Before 1994, women had low representation in the Parliament, only at 2.7%. Women in the national assembly were at 27.7%. This number has nearly doubled, being at 48% representation throughout the country's government. National Women's Day is based around much of the same principles as International Women's Day, and strives for much of the same freedoms and rights.

This year’s Women Month is under the theme: “Women’s Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment: Building Back Better for Women’s Improved Resilience”. The concept of Generation Equality is a global campaign and links South Africa to global efforts to achieve gender equality by 2030.

The month of August is now dedicated to women and is marked by several government events such as a trade fair for women's crafts and a symposium on labour issues.


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