- On this day in history, the largest women's march occured in the country when 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings in 1956
- The first offical national Women's Day was celebrated in 1995
- Thabo Mbeki unveiled a statue to commemorate the events of 1956 on this day, nineteen years ago.
One of the biggest demonstrations staged in the country's history occurred on 9 August 1956. A total of approximately 20 000 women of all races marched to Pretoria's Union Buildings to present a petition against the carrying of passes by women to the prime minister, JG Strijdom.
The march was organised by the Federation of South African Women (FSAW or FEDSAW). Although the prime minister was not at the Union Buildings to accept the petition, the women sent a public message that they would not be oppressed any longer.
After the petition was handed over to the secretary of the prime minister, the women sang a freedom song: 'Wathint` abafazi, Strijdom!'
Since then, the phrase 'wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo' ('you strike a woman, you strike a rock') has come to represent the courage and strength of South African women.
The first official national Women's Day was celebrated in 1995. South Africa had just become a democratic country and the day was declared a national holiday. Since then, annual celebrations take place throughout the country. One such celebration occurred on this day in 2000, when President Thabo Mbeki unveiled the Women's Monument at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
The aim of the monument was to commemorate the role of women in the struggle and marked the 44th anniversary of the march of 20 000 women . Portraits of some of the women who led that march were also on display. These included those of Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Raheema Moosa and Sophie De Bruin. Some of the survivors of the march were present to witness a symbolic victory of their struggle. The monument was executed jointly by sculptor Wilma Cruise and architect Marcus Holmes.
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