The Women's Charter adopted at the FEDSAW launch formed the backbone of the effort to unite women in the fight for political, social, legal and economic reforms in favour of women and all marginalised South Africans.
The women's march of 9 August, 1956 where over 20 000 women of all races marched to the Union Buildings was a significant turning point in the struggle against unjust laws. struggle they fought was for the greater good of all South Africans.
As the struggle against the pass laws intensified, strong-willed leading women emerged who dedicated their lives fighting alongside their husbands in the struggle for a fair, democratic, non-racist and non-sexist South Africa.
A strong spirit of nationalism swept through Africa as more and more African countries gained their independence. Ironically, at the same time, the white government in South Africa tightened their control over the black population.
Women who were actively involved in the revolutionary struggle were subjected to severe punishment by the state such as detention under the General Law Amendment Act, and later, Section 29 of the Internal Security Act of the apartheid government.
Primarily formed to uphold the values of the Women's Charter and the Freedom Charter, this move was also aimed at educating everyone about the importance of abolishing all gender-based prejudices and discrimination.
Women's struggles were complex in that the South African society largely subscribed to patriarchal values. They faced serious discrimination and prejudice from their husbands, employers and the state.
Many women decided to play an active role by joining the military wing of the ANC to fight side by side with their men in the armed revolutionary struggle.
Albertina Sisulu's invitation to meet former US President George W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a major breakthrough for women's movements.
The ANCWL was banned along the ANC in 1960, causing a disruption to the movement. After the ANC was unbanned, the ANCWL relaunched and vigorously mobilised all women movements to form, among other things, the Women's Charter.
The Women's Month in South Africa is way of acknowledging the critical role played by women in the struggle and to thank them for the sacrifices they made for the South Africa we see today.
© SAHA 2017