09 August 2010

When you strike a rock: celebrating Women's Day

Poster reflecting the role of women in the 1980s mass movement against apartheid, specifically the Tricameral parliament proposed by PW Botha's administration, SAHA Poster Collection, AL2446_0029Women's Day emphasises the role of women in the struggle for freedom and equality in South Africa and acknowledges their ongoing struggle against exploitation and abuse. This is felt strongly in South Africa, where the ability of women to provide for their families is compromised by their socio-economic marginalisation.

This is strongly reflected by the sentiments of the women of Abahlali baseMjondolo, an active community organisation affiliated with the Poor People's Alliance, who have argued that the South African media's representation of women's rights played mere lip service to the role of 'poor women in shacks.' The struggle for justice related to women's rights remains ongoing. Women's Day also serves as an important reminder of the global struggle for gender equality, and the historic contribution of those women to achieve fundamental human rights, including the right of franchise, the right to work and the right not to be abused.

Women's Day in South Africa is held on 9 August to commemorate the 1956 women's march to the Union Buildings. On this day, 20 000 women marched on the Union Buildings in Pretoria. They brought petitions signed by over 100 000 women opposed to proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act of 1950, which would control their movement and require many to carry pass books.

Since its inception, the South African History Archive has accumulated a vast collection of posters, photographs and documents related to women's rights. Many of the collections reflect the powerful contribution of women to the struggle.

Some, but not all, of these are listed below:

AL2594 :: Jeanette Schoon Collection
AL2605 :: The NISAA Institute for Women's Development Collection
AL2924 :: Sally Sealey TRC Collection
AL2948 :: The Lucia Raadschelders Collection
AL3013 :: The Barbara Hogan Collection
AL3021 :: The Yasmin Sooka Collection
AL3045 :: The Jill Geber Collection
AL3111 :: The Chantelle Wyley Collection 
AL3112 :: The Penelope Maysom Collection
AL3116 :: The Janet Cherry Collection
AL3117 :: The Laura Pollecutt Collection