Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma says the women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 laid a firm foundation for the restoration of the freedom and the dignity of women.
Tuesday’s National Women’s Day marked 60 years since the iconic 1956 women’s march against the discriminatory pass laws, which had restricted the movement of black people in the country.
“It is because of their heroic achievements that today government continues to work at improving the living conditions of households, including those headed by women. They wanted a better life. The extension of basic services such as water, sanitation, electricity, education, health and others benefits to women and children.
“The struggles of women enabled the ushering in of freedom and democracy, so that these services can be extended to all,” said President Zuma.
The achievements of the women of 1956 have also translated to the opening up of the leadership space for women. There is a marked increase in the representation of women in Parliament, government, the judiciary and other key positions in the public sector.
“Some women are also now heading giant corporations in the private sector, although much more still needs to be done in many companies.”
The President was speaking at the Union Buildings in Pretoria were thousands of people had gathered to celebrate Women’s Day.
Dignitaries included Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women Susan Shabangu, Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa, AUC Chair Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and veterans of the 1956 Women’s March.
President Zuma said the launch of the Women’s Living Heritage Monument at Lillian Ngoyi Square earlier in the day was a symbol of the bravery and patriotism of South African women, and a monument to their contribution to the liberation and democracy that South Africa has achieved.
The monument tells the story of women’s contribution to the liberation struggle and features four statues of the heroic stalwarts, Lillian Ngoyi, Sophie De Bruyn, Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa.
“Their march was not in vain. We recognise many others who dared the apartheid state in 1956 and marched to Union Buildings, and also women in every part of the country, who contributed in various ways to the freedom we are enjoying today.
“We also recognise women who have contributed to building this country – the factory workers, domestic workers, farm workers, those who work on our roads and every other sphere.”
President Zuma said while much had been achieved, there was still some work to be done.
“Some communities are still waiting for water, electricity, sanitation and housing. Women are still struggling as they travel long distances to fetch water.
“It is for this reason that work is continuing to improve the lives of our people each day. Government will not rest until decent basic services reach all our people.”
President Zuma said government would continue in its efforts to create an environment in which the private sector can create jobs.
“As we begin working towards the next 60 years, we must take the transformation of our country forward. Black women suffered triple oppression in terms of race, gender, class and other disadvantaging factors.
“Let us continue to work together to build our beautiful country so that every South African, especially girl children and women, can have a brighter future,” he said.