9 August 1956 – a historic day in our country’s democracy that we today refer to as Women’s Day.
A day when around 20 000 women from diverse backgrounds of our nation decided to take action, standing firm and uniting against the unjust apartheid pass laws, carrying signed petitions that demanded an end to the harsh apartheid acts that affected women.
The likes of Rahima Moosa, Lillan Ngoyi, Ellen Khuzwayo, Bertha Gxowa, Helen Joseph, Sophia De Bruyn and many more others blazed a trail to a freedom that is now enjoyed by many of us. They marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to the office of the then prime minister J.G. Striljdom to hand over the petition that demanded the abolishment of the apartheid pass laws. Striljdom was not present at the time but the women who were leading the marches managed to leave the signed petitions outside the prime minister’s door. Striljdom’s absence agitated the marchers as can be heard on the chant that the women did – directing it to him and the apartheid government over the inhumane acts passed including the Urban Areas Act.
The women stood tall together against a system that had denied them of their human existence and compromised their quality of life.
They marched and chanted: “Wa thint’abafazi, wa thint’imbokodo!” (You strike women, you strike a rock)
Looking back, we draw from their energy, passion and strength in uniting against a system that was clearly marginalizing and dehumanizing them. They refused to take it any longer without them taking a stand and speaking up about it. It is also beautiful to note that Sophie De Bruyn (who was Williams then) is one of the only surviving powerful women who led the pack in that historic march to the Union buildings. She was only 18 years at the time she took part in the march and is now blessed and still with us at the age of 82.
Lebone Rivoningo Developments is an organization deeply rooted in the principles of humanity and community engagements that shape and mould us into who we are. Our communities and families are anchored by many faceless women who often bear the brunt of violence, shame, being silenced and often financially excluded yet continue to raise children under those dire circumstances. The many women who pray for their children and do whatever it takes to ensure that their young never go to bed hungry. They keep their homes warm and try to protect their families from any harm or danger. The women who refuse to give in when the tough times seem like they are sticking by for longer than they are supposed to. You can’t help but be moved by this undying spirit.
It’s those many women who we are encouraged and get our wisdom from and who we continue to celebrate.
Lebone is an organization founded by a black woman and comprises of a diverse, dynamic and strong team – of which 70% is composed of women.
Today, we chose to honour and celebrate them for the many sacrifices and efforts they put into the work we do. Some challenges that we encounter, require someone with an ear, someone who is tender in their approach, someone patient and who can easily offer a shoulder to cry on – the women in the team make the transition easy for all to participate, get involved and drawn in to get to a prompt solution with ease at the end of each obstacle.
The people who ensure that everyone is well-taken care of during our mentoring sessions, always asking if you are okay or not and sorting you out if you’re not. Making you feel better. Disciplinarians, who quickly rebuke any foul play or offensive language; warriors with significant mental and physical strength and sincere supporters who are first to celebrate and congratulate a victory and a milestone that has been achieved.
To all the women that are the engine and moral fibre to what we do at Lebone, we thank you and take courage and strength from each of you.
Happy women’s day and women’s month to all phenomenal women out there!
Historic women’s day picture on the slider, courtesy of Drum Magazine and additional reporting of facts from The Sunday Times.