THIS DAY IN HISTORY: August 9th, 1956 (National Women’s Day in South Africa)
On 9 August 1956 the Federation of South African Women organized a mass demonstration against the imposition of pass laws on women in South Africa.
More than 20,000 women, led by Lilian Ngoyi (a trade unionist and political activist), Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu, and Sophia Williams-De Bruyn, took part in the multi-racial march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, to deliver a petition to the prime minister JG Strijdom. (Strijdom was conveniently absent and had the Secretary to the Prime Minister accepted the petition in his stead!)
On the way to the Union Buildings the women sang a freedom song: “Wathint’ abafazi, Strijdom!”
[When] you strike the women,
you strike a rock,
you will be crushed [you will die]!
The phrase wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo has come to represent women’s courage and strength in South Africa.
As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the 1956 Women’s March, the South African government decided to rename Strijdom Square, where the Union Buildings in Pretoria are, as Lillian Ngoyi Square - to honor of all those who took part in the historic event.