On the 9th August 2006, I was privileged enough to attend the South African Women’s Day celebrations held at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. It’s a day that changed my life.
At the time I was working as an Assistant Social Worker in a shelter for abused women. With my Psychology degree behind me, I was thrown into the deep end of psychological care, responding to the needs of women who’d been through such hardships; things I struggle to comprehend even now and certainly wouldn’t mention here.
It was an incredible time; and what do you think inspired me the most? Yes, as ever, the power of the human condition to be resilient, powerful and positive during such unbelievable pain and tragedy was astounding. Those women will remain in my heart for all time as the most uplifting and accepting set of individuals I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. I thank them deeply for everything they gave me, and I hope that I gave them a little something in return.
They’re particularly in my mind this week as I often got asked “So if you come from England do you know the Queen?” They would be revelling in the Royal Wedding this week, soaking up every moment of the celebrations.
On the day in question, I acted as chaperone taking the women to the Union Building Celebrations. Taking control of such a vibrant group had its challenges as they just can’t stop singing and dancing; on the bus, in the field, through the crowds, across the roads. An unstoppable force of energy.
But the most powerful part of the day was the re-enactment of the famous women’s rights march from 50 years earlier. In 1956, 20,000 women of all races marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against a law forcing black women to carry passes in South Africa. They succeeded in standing up to what can only be described as fundamental human wickedness.
International Women’s Day is celebrated on the 8th March and there are so many things to be proud of historically; yet it’s so easy to forget and take for granted the injustices our ancestors faced, the struggle they faced in fighting for our rights and the inequalities persisting into the modern day.
I feel inspired to remember those amazing women by continuing their good work, fighting for our rights to stand up and be counted.
Why not spend today with one of the amazing women in your life?
And if you need a final bit of inspiration, here’s the South African anthem that has become traditionally linked with that famous women’s victory:
'Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo'
[Meaning “You strike a woman; you strike a rock”]
Let’s believe it.