The 1956 Girls’s March In South Africa Nonetheless Resonates As we speak

August 9th marks the 65th anniversary of the women’s march in South Africa. The fire and bravery of the women and girls who climbed the steps of the Union Buildings that day transformed the landscape of South Africa. How far have we – or not – come since then? We ask these female changemakers about the issues and struggles they are fighting for in South Africa today.

65 YEARS AGO, ON AUGUST 9, 20,000 women and girls of all races, classes, skin colors, and faiths marched and chanted, some with babies on their backs, and climbed the steps of the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the seat of apartheid government South Africa’s capital to hand over petitions to then Prime Minister JG Strijdom against the introduction of apartheid passport laws.

In the midst of apartheid, the South African government introduced the Native Laws Amendment Act in 1952. It was a criminal offense for any African to stay in an urban area for more than 72 hours unless they had a passport that included identity, employment, residence, payment of taxes, and permission to stay in urban areas. For the first time in South African history, black women were expected to carry passports as well.

The march was led by four women; legendary fighters Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophia Williams-De
Bruyn and Rahima Moosa.

“Wathint’Abafazi wathint ‘imbokodo,” called the meeting. “Strijdom, you manipulated women, you hit a rock!”

In front of the bell tower of the Union Buildings, hordes of women dressed in the ANC colors of green, yellow and black arrived with women from the towns, villages and villages, united in their goal of saving each other from the dismantling of the passes .

With bated breath and deafening silence, they watched as Ngoyi, Moosa, Joseph and Williams-De Bruyn deposited 100,000 petitions with Strijdom. The march signaled a paradigm shift as women came to the fore and play a bigger role in the struggle for freedom and democracy.

In the following pages we look at how a small cross-section of female leaders today interpret the changes they are seeing and the causes they are currently fighting for in South Africa.

(Photo by Ginko Agency / via Getty Images)

The glory of her appearance, her dignity and grace and this determination to raise her feet in a place where no other African person had done it before … – Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, the only surviving member of the famous quartet – including Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa – who led the women’s march in 1956, in an interview in the August / September 2014 issue of FORBES WOMAN AFRICA

(Photo credit should be MUJAHID SAFODIEN / AFP via Getty Images)

We hope that this generation we are leaving behind is doing the right thing in honoring all of those who have given up their lives … especially the women who are not always remembered. I wouldn’t have been me if I hadn’t met the Lilian Ngoyis of the day. – Winnie Mandela, in an interview in the December 2014 / January 2015 issue of FORBES WOMAN AFRICA

Fight for vulnerable workers

Kgomotso Mokoena is a lecturer and lawyer specializing in labor law with a focus on constitutional law, media law and intellectual property law, with a particular interest in the gig economy. Born to parents in exile in Atlanta, USA, she returned to South Africa with her family and graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand before working as a trainee lawyer at the Constitutional Court and opening her own law firm. Now she is doing a PhD in labor law at the University of the Western Cape and says, “Because there are so few jobs, many workers are being exploited in relation to the gig economy.”

Currently, the main laws governing their rights fall under the Labor Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act in South Africa – frameworks that Mokoena says have not been updated to reflect the technological innovations that are changing the dynamics between workers and employers. Mokoena’s research focuses on bridging this gap – what are the living conditions of vulnerable workers in the gig economy, what is the level of injustice?

“And how can we fix that from a legislative point of view?” She says. “Personally, my passion lies in labor law – especially with a focus on vulnerable employees. Statistically speaking, women in South Africa tend to have more insecure jobs than men. “

Fight for literacy and security

“You can’t learn in an environment where you don’t feel safe and secure. Literacy and security need each other in order to survive and thrive, ”says Stacey Fru of the challenges school children face in South Africa today.

The 14-year-old is an award-winning author, philanthropist, activist and motivational speaker. Been
Recognized for her literary work, entrepreneurship, and shortlisted for the 2020 International Children’s Peace Prize, some of her most personal and valuable work is her Stacey Fru Foundation, a charity that aims to increase access to education in rural areas through the provision of To improve food. Toiletries and books.

Fru’s career began writing and publishing her first book when she was eight years old. Since then she has published four more and has been a strong advocate for children’s rights through her ambassadorship at Save The Children.

However, in her daily life, she faces the same challenges as many of her colleagues during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Many of us cannot go to school. Most of us are doing our best right now to take online courses or just concentrate for a longer period of time. “

Fru has continued to write and collaborate during the pandemic and the recent civil unrest in South Africa.

“With the riots, the third wave of Covid, everything around us is disrupting our everyday lives as children. Just hold on, talk to your friends and family; You are never alone in a fight. “

Fight for climate change

“The fact is that climate change does not affect people in the same way. This applies to the industrialized countries as well as to the developing countries and also for the sex – with women in the mineral resources and in subsistence agriculture making up the majority. “

Dorah Marema has had an illustrious career in gender and environmental activism. Originally from a rural village outside of Mopane in Limpopo, South Africa, she began her working life as part of the Transvaal Rural Action Committee, an initiative of Black Sash. Her upbringing brought her home with the gender inequalities in environmental protection firsthand and led her to found GenderCC, an international organization
advocate that gender is fully integrated into climate policy.

She currently works for the South African Local Government Association as a portfolio manager for community sustainability, a role that is becoming increasingly demanding due to the pandemic and recent civil unrest.

“And unfortunately the environment is the only element that is badly affected because it does not generate any income for the municipalities, but it is so critical.” Marema’s tireless role does not kill her. Despite the pandemic and global climate crisis, an optimistic outlook and everyone who does their part will mitigate more damage than you think.

“You might think it’s a little action, but if I do something in your neighborhood, in your town, in your community, then you are
start doing something; All of these measures will go a long way towards reducing CO2 emissions already, focusing on reducing them and making sure that we plant trees, that we take care of our biodiversity … We can do it, but we have to! through a multilateral initiative involving the whole world. “

Struggle to strengthen the youth

“I think when you’re student activism you have your fingers in all the different cakes. From there, but also at home, I had a really good foundation, ”says Pearl Pillay, director of YouthLab, a political think tank that wants to create space for young South Africans to get involved in political issues that affect them. Pillay started as a research intern and worked her way to the top of the organization, having been involved in election observation in Liberia and Tunisia as well as in political work for the African Union – expertise that she brings to the South African context.

Closest to her heart are issues that are closer to her home. Faced with the challenges of the pandemic, YouthLab decided to launch programs that support democratic development and build capacity and education in communities to exercise democratic rights.

“We go to different communities and take the time to teach young people what it means to be an active citizen, what different democratic tools they have.”

Despite the challenges of the past year and the unique troubles the pandemic brought, Pillay is optimistic as YouthLab is advancing mental health programs to support busy and unemployed youth. “We don’t often think of wellbeing as development, so prioritizing wellbeing has enabled many to face the challenges of Covid. To be able to actually offer something that helps the youth, that was a big highlight for me. “

(Photo by Danny Martindale / WireImage)

Transformation is not an event but a process and these processes have to start with ourselves … It starts with you, it starts with how you realize yourself, how you see yourself, how you interact with society, how you are within of the house because very often you find you have a loud voice when it comes to gender activism, but on the home front you don’t stand up for yourself. Liberation has to be a spiritual emancipation first … It’s not just the mindset, but we have to give women the tools they need to make sure they move forward. Zindzi Mandela, in an interview for the December 2014 / January 2015 issue of FORBES WOMAN AFRICA

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