Iconic 1956 Women’s March commemorated
Brand South Africa in partnership with the SA Women Alliance in Atlanta hosted a celebration to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the iconic 1956 Women’s March under the theme “Women United in Moving South Africa Forward”. The guest of honor bestowed with the 2016 Women Legacy Award was Ms Sophia Theresa DuBryun, the only surviving member of the 4 women who led the historic women’s march 60 years ago in 1956.
The 1956 march and others before by thousands of fearless women are testament to the role of women in bringing about our democracy. During the 1956 march about 20 000 women of all races marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the discriminatory pass laws which had restricted the movement of black people in the country. At the time the struggle for women in South Africa was a triple oppression struggle, where women were oppressed as a class, color (race), and gender.
According to South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration Ms Ayanda Dlodlo there exists “great parallels in the struggles in the US and South Africa. It is through the numerous acts of defiance by the civil rights movement leaders and political activists such as Ms Coretta Scott King, Mildred Marvin, Angela Davisand many others that oppression in all its forms will be combated. It was equally an act of defiance that MsRosa Parks chose not to give up her seat not because she was tired but because she was tired of giving in”. Too many times it is easier to give in, but is so doing we fail ourselves and the future generations in our timidness.
This seminal moment in our history has been celebrated since 1995 as Women’s Day, and is the focal point of Women’s Month celebrations during the month of August in South Africa. During Women’s Month our nation recognises the important role of political activism by women during the struggle for liberation against colonisation and apartheid. According to Ms Sophia Theresa DuBryun who accepted the award standing on the shoulders of generation of women who would not be silenced, icons who are no longer living, “we chose to define ourselves where across the world women were reduced to caring, homemakers and obedient wives. We went out to fulfill all those roles and achieve a whole lot more”.
It is also an opportunity to reflect on the gains we have made since 1994. Over the past 22 years South Africahas made significant inroads insofar as gender parity and women empowerment is concerned. We have made noteworthy progress in putting in place legislation and policy frameworks for advancing equality and empowerment for women.
Government has also been at the forefront of initiatives to ensure greater women empowerment. In September 2015 a Presidential Directive was issued and instructed that the Economic Cluster Ministers ensure women’s economic empowerment is placed centrally in the implementation of their departmental programmes and in the Nine-Point Plan to grow the economy.
Despite the significant progress over the last 22 years in changing the lives of women in our country, many women continue to face obstacles such as limited access to economic opportunities.
Education of young women remains a pressing challenge with most girls not being able to complete their secondary education. Among the reasons are early pregnancy, marriage and being forced to stay at home to help with children. The mandate of former President Nelson Mandela is not that we live free, but should respect and enhance the rights and opportunities of others to be free as everybody else. That means that we should provide equal opportunities to be educated, same opportunities to better healthcare, it means no man or woman or child should still feel inferior, and this is the key to success for any economy. In his 1994 address to parliament he stated “freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression..”.
If there is a message that Dr W.E.B DuBois and Frederick Douglas left this generation is “if i forget those who are yet in poverty (slavery), may my tongue stick to the roof of its mouth and my right hand lose its cunning”. The struggle continues because as long as there are people who are hungry there will be violence, there will be hatred. What is required is to create a job structure the enables each human being to develop their resources, their energies and enjoy the opportunities the are available to them wherever they are; only then will we have peace and co-existence on earth and goodwill, not only to men but to women and children as well.
South Africa will always be indebted to the women who participated in the 1956 march. – PRNewswire