Media Statement: The HSF Marks National Women’s Day

Sixty six years ago today, more than 20 000 women marched on the Union Buildings against Apartheid pass laws. Women’s Day on 9 August honours their contribution, and that of so many other women, in building an equal and democratic South Africa. It recognises the resilience and power of South African women and our unique place in realising the promise of a free South Africa.

Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Sophia Williams De-Bruyn, Rahima Moosa, Charlotte Maxeke, Annie Silinga, Ruth First, Cissy, Jaynab and Amina Gool, Amina Pahad, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Elizabeth Mafikeng, Elizabeth Abrahams and Helen Suzman. These are but a few of the many women who fearlessly fought for a free South Africa.

But while we observe Women’s Day today as a democratic country, for South African women there is much to mourn. The high levels of gender-based violence in our country today, as evident in recent horrific reports, mean that for far too many women the rights to freedom and security of person, bodily integrity and dignity exist only as aspiration, as the concept of a free and democratic South Africa did then.

Women’s Day cannot only be a day of historical observance. It must be a call to action for as long as the threat of GBV consumes almost every aspect of women’s lives; in schools, in the workplace, in public and in our own homes.

Nicole Fritz