South African Women – what have you done lately?

Today we celebrate the 60th anniversary of South African women standing up and saying “No Ways, Forget it, Ain’t nobody got time for that”.

On this day in 1956, 20 000 South African women stood together to stop a male run government from passing a terrible, restrictive and unfair set of rules. Our grandmothers said NO. Proudly we remember their motto “You strike a woman, you strike a rock”. They made history, and to commemorate their bravery and determination we get to sleep in and take the day off. I wonder what they would think about that.

Yes we need to remember them – but I think we have forgotten why they stood up in the first place. I think we have isolated that one event and said “oh look, how brave” and then left it at that. When I am sure what they really would have hoped for is that we would take it as a lesson: As the weaker sex, the smaller power, the beaten, the neglected, the care givers, the nurturers, the raisers of men and women alike, we have the power to bring the country to a standstill if we stand together. Yet we have slipped back into complacency, happy to reminisce about “that one time” when we were strong together. Shouldn’t this be a day when women should stand up and stand for something, not just in 1956 but this year, and every year?

How have we let 60 years pass without realizing that the real enormity of what they did is what it means for us? Instead we sit in our homes complaining about the government, afraid of the South African culture (across races) of abusive men? We are afraid to walk alone to our cars after work or to catch a taxi home or face our partners or stand up to men in the work place and demand to be treated like equals. We accept a society that breeds violence, poverty, racism and fear.

Not that I am saying this is all propagated by men – please don’t misunderstand, this is not an anti-male speech. The question I am posing is Why, as women, do we put up with it? We have seen what we are capable of and every year we have this public holiday to commemorate our strength. So why don’t we use it to sort out our society once and for all? Or even one protest at a time, perhaps one every Women’s day?

What I would love better than anything would be to see South African women make it their mission to stand up and make things happen – for the better of all – all the time.

Or perhaps it is really so difficult to get us organised into some semblance of unity that that is actually the great accomplishment of 60 years ago. The fact that they managed to get it together.

It lends itself to great pondering, doesn’t it? What would I do, what would I say, If I had the voices of 20 000 women standing with me? Quite a lot, I should think. We could achieve huge things. Be a nation who listens to it’s mother, like a band of Amazonian Wonder Women we could lead the globe – World Peace – here we come. If only we realised our own potential. Don’t get me wrong, I am as guilty of this sense of helplessness as the next girl. I have no more clue than anyone else how to get the ball rolling. What I do know is that we are more than just the answer. We are the only possible solution. Because what this country needs is the love and discipline of a mother; For the women of South Africa to stand together always for what is right, and good, and say, “Oh hell NO” to what isn’t. Then who could stand against us? Unity is strength, after all, and there are more of us than there are men. Statistical fact, so there!

But until that day comes again, to all of you who do feel trapped and powerless and like you can’t escape, I have this one message:

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, you have never been trapped in a room with a mosquito.” – African Proverb

Give them hell, girls. Happy Womens Day.



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