Tomorrow, 9th August is National Women's Day in South Africa:
On August 9, 1956 20000 women staged a march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act (commonly known as the pass laws) of 1950. They left bundles of petitions containing more than 100000 signatures at prime minister J.G. Strijdom's office door.
Outside they stood silently for 30 minutes, many with their children on their backs. Those who were working for whites as nannies were carrying their white charges with them. The women sang 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 54 years since, the phrase (or its latest incarnation: “you strike a woman, you strike a rock”) has come to represent women’s courage and strength in South Africa.
The march was led by Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams-De Bruyn.
Since 1994 August 9 is commemorated annually and is known as Women’s Day in South Africa. In 2006 a reenactment of the march was staged for its 50th anniversary, with many of the 1956 march veterans attending.