On 9 August 1956, more than 20 000 women of different races marched to the Union buildings to deliver petitions to then-Prime Minister of South Africa, JG Strijdom, against the carrying of passes by women.
This is one of the most historic events in the struggle for freedom and women’s rights in South Africa.
The 60th anniversary of this march was celebrated on Tuesday, and while everyone (including the men) enjoyed the public holiday, and while Facebook was flooded by inspirational women’s messages, I have to wonder… what freedoms do South African women and, in particular Cape Flats women, actually have?
We live in a time and in a place where walking to the taxi rank on your way to earn a living can see you getting raped or shot. We are surrounded, if not a part of constant verbal, emotional and physical abuse by husbands, fathers, brothers and boyfriends.
We suffer the indignity of being poor, to the point of not being able to afford sanitary towels when we get our periods.
Many single mothers work themselves to a standstill as they raise their children alone.
We live in a space where being scared of someone or something has become the norm. Yet, through all of this, women not only survive, but we stand tall, walk proud and thrive!
Unfortunately, our biggest strength is also our largest flaw. If there is one thing women on the Cape Flats know, it is how to SUPPORT each other.
Your girlfriends will be your shoulder to cry on when your husband is cheating. They will hold your hand through sickness, health and addiction and they will share the little that they have with you.
On the other hand, we are just as easily able to break each other down.
Sadly, we remain our own worst enemy. Many women would rather see another female trampled into the ground, then help her up. And that is just plain wrong! We should be helping each other reach the top, instead of pushing each other down.
However, if there is one thing that Cape Flats vrouens share with women from the rest of the world – it is how little credit we give ourselves. We fail to see that by existing, we matter!
The Cape Flats is rife with physical abuse, with wives and girlfriends being intimidated and beaten by men with issues. I urge every woman to take heed of what I am saying today: you are someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s sister and someone’s friend. You deserve better than to be disrespected and intimidated with violence.
If you are in a physically abusive relationship – get out!
The next time a man hits you – go lay a charge at the police station, and don’t be afraid to have him locked up!
Because how you handle your situation today will determine how your daughter handles it in the future.
Another important thing to do is to reach out and speak out. You will be surprised to see how many women are in the same boat, and how many of us are willing to help you.
As women we have to get out of this culture and mindset of being victims. We need to own our strength. We need to be proud of who we are and what we do. If you are at home taking care of your children, you are as valuable as the woman who is out working earning a salary. If you are a cleaner, you have the same human value as a CEO.
We need to encourage our girl children to seek their education, for that is where their power lies.
I realise that standing up for yourself and standing alone can be difficult and scary.
But meisie, it must be done, if you want to save yourself and your children from a culture of being victims. I believe that marches mean very little, unless we are able to change our mindset.
In this Women’s Month, I send you my sincere prayers and wishes for strength, sanity and serenity. Life can become very bad, and many a woman cries behind her mask. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t give in to negativity.
Keep the faith. Find the light. Because you are someone’s daughter, someone’s mother, someone’s sister – and YOU MATTER!