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Women in the Community

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Women play a vital role in society. In every community there are women who are looked up to, respected and admired.

Our South African Women's Day is part of South Africa's Women's Month. The month provides an opportunity to pay tribute to the generations of women whose struggles laid the foundations for the progress made in empowering women and achieving gender equality to date. The 2021 national theme for women’s month is “Realising Women's Rights”. Realising Women’s Rights is complex and multidimensional from political rights to societal, family, workplace, religious, cultural, and many more rights. How are we addressing these rights? How are we beginning the conversation?

I am in awe of women who truly stand up for their beliefs and rights.

On the 9th of August 1956, more than 20 000 women of all races marched peacefully together to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to hand over a petition which had been signed by more than 100 000 women, to the then South African prime minister Hans (JG) Strijdom. This Women’s March protest was against the requirement that women should carry pass books as part of the South African pass laws. The protest group was led by individuals such as Lilian Ngoyi, Albertina Sisulu, Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph, Bertha Gxowa, Sophia Williams De-Bruyn and Ray Alexander. Singing "Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo" (you strike the women, you strike the rock). That historic day is commemorated as Women's Day in South Africa.

Source: UCT NewsRoom. 07 AUGUST 2015. Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo. Photo by Jurgen Schadeberg

On the 17th August 2016, four young women; Naledi Chirwa, Simamkele Dlakavu, Tinyiko Shikwambane and Amanda Mavus; stood up for their beliefs and rights, as they highlighted the ongoing rape culture plaguing our country. They got up and stood in front of the stage where Pres. Jacob Zuma conducted a public address at the Independent Electoral Commission in Pretoria about the close of the local elections.

These young women spoke about the event being organised spontaneously, asking the election centre organisers for markers and paper for the signs. Naledi Chirwa, is said to have come up with the slogans’ wording:

  • Remember Khwezi: the pseudonym used in reference to the woman who reported being raped by Zuma

  • Khanga: a sarong worn by women. Zuma had told the court that the fact the womam was wearing a khanga suggested she wanted to have sex with him

  • I am 1 in 3: referenced to the statistic of South African women subject to sexual violence

  • 10 years later: the time since Zuma’s aquittal on rape charges

Source: Twitter: Mogenzi Peter 14 Aug 2016

In both of these instances women stood up for their beliefs. We live in a complex country of many varied communities with differing cultures, beliefs, religions and societal norms. Women are in every part of our society, in every profession and career. Still, in many of these communities women are seen as inferior or need women to be submissive. In work environments women don’t yet have equal pay. There is discrimitation which exists against women going on maternity leave, for example loss of pay, limited time off, or affecting promotions.

Even so, we have influence, as women. We can impact those around us.

How are we as teachers showcasing Women’s Day?

How are we creating an awareness of gender equality among all learners, not just the females?

How are we having the difficult discussions among all learners?

Wonderful History lesson opportunities.

Life orientation and life skills lesson discussions

Language lesson discussions and debates.

We should not be saying one gender is better than the other, nor that one group of people is better than the other. Rather is it discussing and recognising the strengths of all.

Recognising our differences, but treating all people fairly.

“Treating others, the way you want to be treated”

Looking at the individual in the work situation in relation to qualification, expertise and skill.

Source: Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

@dwypdza (Facebook). Women’s Day 2021: The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke: Realising Women’s Rights.

Realising that as women we have the same rights and responsibilities within society.

As women in the community we should be driving the discussions among all. Asking the difficult question, what does “realising women’s rights” really mean?


Ndaba, Baldwin (9 August 2006). "Memories of the Long March to Freedom". The Star. HighBeam Research.

SAHO. Sophia Theresa Williams de Bruyn. South African History Online.

South Africa overcoming Apratheid building democracy. Dorothy Nyembe (December 31, 1931 - December 17, 1998). Michigan State University.

SAHO. Dorothy Nomzansi Nyembe. South African History Online.

SAHO. Helen Joseph. South African History Online. South African History Online.

SAHA. You strike the women, you strike the rock!

Eleni Giokos and Thabile Vilakazi. August 17, 2016. The four South African women who rattled the nation with anti-rape protest.

Simamkele Dlakavu. 14 Aug 2016. Khwezi protest: We came as 4, but stood as 10 000. City Press.

Greg Nicolson. 8 August 2016. #RememberKhwezi: ‘It worked like a beautiful theatre piece’. South Africa. Politics. Daily Maverick

Thomas Boatman 6 May 2020 Biography of Dorothy Nyembe by Thomas Boatman. South African History online (SAHO)

SAHA Archive for justice. 07 August 2018. Remembering Dorothy Nyembe: a woman who spent 18 years in prison to fighting for what she believed in.

Mail and Guardian. 25 Aug 2016. Special report: 60 Iconic Women — The people behind the 1956 Women’s March to Pretoria (11-20)

Image: UCT NewsRoom. 07 AUGUST 2015. Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo. Photo by Jurgen Schadeberg. On 9 August 1956, more than 20 000 women marched on Union Buildings with a petition to end pass laws, led by Rahima Moosa, Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Sophia Williams.

Image: Mogenzi @MongeziPeter. Aug 6, 2016

“These ladies are powerful beyond imagination .I dont think I have it in me to take it to this level. #RememberKhwezi.” Image.

Image : Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities

@dwypdza· Women’s Day 2021: The Year of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke: Realising Women’s Rights. South African Government. FaceBook.

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