Women’s Day: remembering 9th August 1956
August 9, 2012
, , ,

Womens Day march

9 August commemorates Women’s Day in South Africa. On this day  in 1956, over 20 000 women of all races marched to the Union Buildings  in Pretoria, to hand over a petition against pass laws. This apartheid legislation required African persons to carry the “pass”, special identification documents which curtailed their freedom of movement.

The march was organised by the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW), a federation committed to challenging the idea that ‘a woman’s place is in the kitchen’, declaring it instead to be ‘everywhere. The leaders of the march Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, Lilian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa and Helen Joseph. The women filled the entire amphitheatre outside the Union Bulidings.

women's day

In her book, Women and Resistance in South Africa, Cheryl Walker describes the scene:

Many of the African women wore traditional dress, others wore the Congress colours, green, black and gold; Indian women were clothed in white saris. Many women had babies on their backs and some domestic workers brought their white employers’ children along with them. Throughout the demonstration the huge crowd displayed a discipline and dignity that was deeply impressive (Walker,  1991: 195).

Over 100 000 signatures marked a number of petitions which were left with the prime minister at the time, J.G. Stijdom. After the petition was handed over they marched and sang Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo meaningNow you have touched the women, you have struck a rock’.

You strike a woman you strike a rock

Since then, the phrase ‘wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo’ – You Strike a Woman, You Strike a Rock – has come to represent the courage and strength of South African women.


Women's Day

Women's March

poster from the Apartheid Museum 


To learn more about the Women’s March and the history of Women’s Day, check out SA history online.

Faith 47, one of my favourite South African graffiti artists, gives a contemporary take on Women’s Day which I love. There are still many issues that South African women have to face. Apartheid may be history, but inequality, poverty, rape and a patriarchal society are just some of the issues women have to deal with.  Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo.


You strike a woman you strike a rock Faith 47

To all South African women, Happy Women’s Day!

What does Women’s Day mean to you?


About author

Meruschka Govender

Related items

You may want to read these posts too

Vote for your favourite chariry. Image: cotlands.org.za

MySchool #Vote4Charity: I voted for Cotlands!

9 August commemorates Women’s Day in South...

Read more
City Skate Tours Joburg

Exploring Joburg with new lenses

9 August commemorates Women’s Day in South...

Read more

Festive fun at Cresta

9 August commemorates Women’s Day in South...

Read more

There are 4 comments

  • spy sms says:

    Hello very cool site!! Man .. Excellent .. Wonderful ..
    I will bookmark your website and take the feeds
    additionally? I’m glad to search out a lot of useful info
    here in the put up, we want develop more techniques in this regard,
    thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  • Hey there superb website! Does running a blog similar to this take a lot of
    work? I’ve absolutely no understanding of computer programming however I
    was hoping to start my own blog in the near future. Anyway, if you
    have any recommendations or techniques for new blog owners please share.
    I understand this is off topic but I simply wanted to ask.

    • mzansigirl says:

      Yes it is a lot of work, but you don’t really need any understanind of programming. I don’t , bthough it would helo if you do. Would great platforms, such as WordPress and Tumblr, blogging is made so much easier, especially for Luddites like me 🙂

  • Hi! I know this is sort of off-topic but I had to ask. Does running a well-established website such as yours take a massive amount work?
    I am completely new to operating a blog however I do write
    in my journal everyday. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily
    share my experience and thoughts online. Please let me
    know if you have any kind of ideas or tips for brand new aspiring blog owners.

    Appreciate it!

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *