Us women, we must be special. After all, we had a public holiday created in our honour. I don’t see no Men’s Day, do you? Ha! No, really, all bra-slinging put to one side, woman are pretty special and I won’t cover the obvious differences between men and women, but rather that we are a diverse and dynamic gender.
But, do you know why there is a public holiday allocated to celebrating women in South Africa? It has been watered down a bit over the years, and most, if asked, have no clue why it began.
So, here is a little history lesson. Back in 1956, the FSAW (The Federation of South African Women) wanted to make a statement, as they were unhappy with a few sections of the Urban Areas Act. The government was insisting that all African women had to carry a pass on their persons always. The reason? Very simply, the government wanted to differentiate coloured women from African women, stating that coloured women were to be employed first when a choice was given. They were so strict that any foreign African women had to be removed from the urban area. Their reasoning in implementing these passes was born from finding control over the influx of foreigners into the land.
As you can imagine, the women took great offence to this, stating that they were not slaves, and passes made them so. They rebelled, but with no positive results. So, the ANC commissioned a few ladies (which ended up being almost 20000) to put together a march. This civil and peaceful march took place on the 9th of August, 1956 in Pretoria, and was deemed a great success, ending with a full hour’s silence outside the Union Buildings. It has gone down in history as one of the largest attended peaceful marches to date.
Today, there are no passes issued for African women or otherwise, so we celebrate this fact every year on the 9th of August.
The age-old fight of women vs. men goes back many more years before this standing, but, this day is not about that feud. It is about segregation, and that no one, man or woman, should be penalised for being different, or at least different in the eyes of some.
It should be clear, that while the original issues are not so prevalent today, there are still significant problems that women face today. From workplace sexual harassment, various parenting issues, pay variances to men, and domestic violence cases.
While many of these don’t affect you, you may know of someone who has or who does experience one of them on an ongoing basis. The 9th of August is there for you, not to sit back and take a day off, but to get involved, and protest any or all of these issues.
What has changed since 1956?
It is important to take note of what actually has made progress over the years because of that march and this day. Let us take the percentage of women representation in parliament firstly. The official public holiday of Women’s Day commenced in 1994, and since then the percentage has raised from barely 3% to almost 50%. That is a significant rise.
In terms of equality in the workplace and at home, there have been many great leaps and bounds on that front. Just the fact that there are more organisations supporting violence against women and children, shows us that there is a very real awareness out there.
How can I get involved on Women’s Day?
There are many ways you can show your respect and support for the day, and we have a few ideas for you:
- As a business owner, you could host a breakfast with all your female clients, and ask them to donate to a worthy womanly, such as violence against women and children, or any of the other issues mentioned
- There are many events that run on this day, from breakfasts to evening do’s, and even visiting under privileged sites and mothers in hospital.
- Think about putting together little packages and dropping these off at an old age home or hospice. The ladies will love you for it.
- Give your domestic cleaner the day off, if you didn’t plan to, and even get her to the spa for a lovely treatment
- If you have female staff, send them for a mani or pedi, showing them that you appreciate their worth as a woman
The sky is really the limit when it comes to ideas on how to celebrate Women’s Day. Use your imagination and if you are really too busy to get out to an organised event, just pay it forward with a kind gesture of some sort. Even your time spent with another woman is worth tons.
I am Woman – Hear me Roar!!