National Women's Day in South Africa - 9 August

National Women's Day in South Africa - 9 August

Each year on the 9th of August, South Africans of all backgrounds join together in celebrating National Women’s Day

To understand this holiday, you need to understand the history of the ‘pass laws’ in South Africa. During the years of apartheid, the government required all people defined as "black" (this included Zulu, Xhosa, Cape Colored, etc.) to carry an internal passport known as the “pass”. This served to maintain population segregation, manage migrant labor, and restrict their freedom of movement. Blacks were required to have a pass if they wished to enter areas that were designated for white people. For example, if a black wanted to go into Cape Town, she/he was required to go to Pass Office on the edge of the city, apply for a pass and have it approved before entering this 'for whites only' area.

It was on the 9th of August in 1956 that a large group of women of all races began a campaign to bring an end to these pass laws.

The campaign began when approximately 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the capital of South Africa.  There they left bundles of petitions with over 100,000 signatures on the office doorstep of the prime minister at the time, J.G. Stijdom.  The women stood silently for 30 minutes and then started singing a protest song that was composed in honor of the occasion;
Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo!  Which translated means ‘Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock!’

In the 54 years since, the phrase now simplified to "you strike a woman, you strike a rock" has come to represent women's courage and strength, and is a reminder of the important contributions women have made and continue to make to this society today.