August is Women’s month in South Africa and during this time, we pay tribute to the courage, bravery and strength of women who took a stance against an unjust system.
On the 9th of August 1956, a group of 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings to protest against pass laws and the proposed extension of these laws to women in the country.
This protest remains one of the country’s most peaceful protests to date which played a pivotal role in the history of South Africa and the role of women in society’s struggle for freedom and equality.
The Link Between Women’s Day and Breaking Barriers
For centuries, women have been subjected to all kinds of oppression which has resulted in unrelenting inequality in almost every sphere of their lives.
Under the patriarchal reign, women have been treated as inferior and undeserving of basic human rights and opportunities, purely because of their gender.
Much of this oppression and inequality still exist today and have evolved to take on subtle forms that often go undetected and are sometimes even accepted as the norm, even by women.
However, one thing that is different in our modern construct is that women have found their collective voice and are standing together to dismantle patriarchal systems and standards, helping one another identify even the smallest crimes against women. And this is how we change the world.
A beautiful example of this took place on the 9th of August 1956 – when 20 000 women came together to unite against injustice.
Locked and loaded with determination, these women left every bit of fear behind as they marched to the Union Building, ready to change the course of history.
After placing 14 000 petitions against the proposed extension of pass laws to women in the country, these women stood peacefully, in deafening silence for 30 minutes.
To end the protest, the women sang a song that was written especially for the occasion. The song sent a powerful message which said “if you strike a woman, you strike a rock.” This message was heard loud and clear, and the idea that women are incapable of holding high positions in society and should stay at home became abnormal.
Gender Inequality in Today’s Climate
Although these women were victorious in their battle against pass laws, there is still much work to be done before gender inequality is entirely eradicated.
Easily one of the most pressing matters of today’s time is gender-based violence. Some have gone as far as to say that gender-based violence is South Africa’s true pandemic, yet it still does not receive the attention it deserves from the powers that be.
So, the people of South Africa have taken to the streets over and over again to bring much-needed awareness to the fact that femicide is rampant and requires immediate and stern action from the government.
These protests have been peaceful, and some have been loud and powerful, but the message has remained the same: “we have had enough.”
Men and women have come together to acknowledge GBV and to stand against it against all odds but, sadly, this does not protect our women.
Despite the fact that almost 180 000 crimes against women are reported to each year, the President has done very little to mitigate the dangers of being a woman in South Africa.
According to Women for Change SA, South Africa’s femicide rate is 5 times the global average and the shocking truth is that these account for the reported cases only; not all acts of gender-based violence are reported
Only 1 in every 9 rape cases are reported of which only 4% result in prosecution of the perpetrator. The life of one woman is taken from her every 3 hours in South Africa.
Is this as a result of a society that chooses to look the other way? Are we protecting perpetrators and stigmatizing survivors?
Hypermasculinity is a toxic disease that is killing the women of South Africa. This may be due to the country’s violent history and skewed assignment of gender roles.
NGO’s and NPO’s have taken the reigns and stepped up to the plate to bring awareness to GBV in South Africa and to provide a safe place for survivors. However, this is not enough.
Nazerit Wilson – South African Female Authors
As a South African female author, the plight of gender inequality holds a particularly important space in my heart, as I understand that female oppression is rife and exists in every institution.
From religion to the workplace and politics to the home environment, gender inequality still affects a large majority of women across the world.
So, I have dedicated my novel to the struggle women face and I tell a story of bravery and determination to break through barriers that hold women back from their truest potential.
If you would like to find out more about my debut novel, I would love to hear from you.