In South Africa, the month of August is dedicated to women, with 9 August celebrated annually as Women’s Day.
Why 9 August?
On 9 August 1956, over 20,000 South African women of all races marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest against the extension of ‘Pass Laws’ to women. Led by Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi, Sophia Williams and Rahima Moosa, the women left huge bundles of petitions against the proposed laws at the office doors of Prime Minister J.G. Strijdom.
You strike a woman, you strike a rock
The protesting women stood in silence for half an hour before singing a protest song composed for the occasion: Wathint’Abafazi, wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.).
Women in post-apartheid South Africa
Since 1994, great strides have been made to improve the status of women. Although there is still a lot of work to be done to address issues affecting women, some of the successes to celebrate are listed below:
- Representation in the South African Parliament has gone from 2,7% representation of women pre-1994, to 30% in 1999, 32.7% in 2004, to 42% in 2009.
- Currently, women deputy ministers make up 47% of the total number of deputy ministers and there is a 41% representation of women in the National Assembly.
- In 1997, the Office on the Status of Women (OSW) was established in the Presidency to steer the national gender programme and championed the development of the National Policy Framework for Women Empowerment and Gender Equality that was approved by Cabinet in 2000.
- In May 2009, the President pronounced the establishment a Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD).
- In May 2014, the President evolved the structure to a dedicated Ministry for Women in the Presidency as a way of elevating women’s issues and interests to lead, coordinate and oversee the transformation agenda on women’s socio-economic empowerment, rights and equality through mainstreaming, monitoring and evaluation.
- Prior to 1994, South Africa had only one woman judge; today, female judges make up almost 28% of the Judiciary.
- Women have even entered previously male dominated areas in the corporate world, and currently constitute 3.6% of CEO positions, 5.5% of chairperson positions, 17.1% of directorships and 21.4% of executive management positions.