On this day in 1956, more than 20,000 South African women of all races staged a march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest against the 'pass laws' that required South Africans defined as 'black' to carry a pass as part of the enforcement of racial segregation, the control of urbanization, and the management of migrant labour during the apartheid era.
The women stood silently for 30 minutes and then started singing a protest song that was composed in honour of the occasion: Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.).
In the years since, its latest incarnation: 'you strike a woman, you strike a rock', has come to represent
women's courage and strength in South Africa.
National Women's Day draws attention to significant issues African women still face, such as domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, unequal pay, and schooling for all girls. It based around much of the same principles as International Women's Day, and strives for many of the same freedoms and rights.
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