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Südafrikanische Botschaft
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07. August 2010

Press Release: Commemorating Women´s Day

March to Union Building

On 9 August 2010 the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa commemorates the 54th anniversary of the Women’s March to the Union Building in Pretoria. On this day in 1956, about 20,000 women staged a march in Pretoria to protest against the so-called “pass law”, which required African persons to carry the “pass”, special identification documents which curtailed an African’s freedom of movement during the Apartheid era.

The women left a petition outside of the Union Building with more than 100,000 signatures protesting against the proposed amendments to the pass laws of 1950. This march showed the strength and courage of women and their song that is now known as “you strike a woman, you strike a rock” became a slogan for the entire women’s movement in South Africa.  

Every year this day is commemorated as a solemn reflection on how far South Africans have come, and what else we must be done to ensure the full emancipation of women in all spheres of life of society, sixteen years into the democracy of South Africa.

With the formal end of apartheid in 1994, a new democratic era arrived in South Africa. Women played a huge role in ensuring that women emancipation and empowerment remained one of the key objectives of the new Government. But it took another struggle to reach this: when negotiations started during the early 1990s, women were initially excluded from the talks until they formed the National Women’s Coalition of South Africa in 1991. This organisation was formed by women from different political backgrounds and political affiliations. Through this organisation, women were able to take part in the negotiations and were able to articulate their demands.  

This clearly showed after the first democratic elections: under former President Nelson Mandela female representation rose to 27% from previously only 2,7%; and by 2004 it stood at 34%. At the moment, the National Assembly has increased to 45%, placing South Africa third behind Rwanda and Sweden in the international rankings for women in Parliament.

In his first speech to the first democratically elected Parliament, former President Nelson Mandela said “Freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression… and that they have been empowered to intervene in all aspects of life as equals with any other member of society.

In today’s Government, with women holding important ministerial positions, women’s rights and issues play an important role on the government’s agenda. Especially issues like discrimination and violence against women are addressed since these are key issues and are challenges that South African women face everyday.

Therefore, Women`s Day is a celebration for all that has been achieved thus far and it is also a reminder that freedom will only be achieved once all women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.

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