Pretoria – There were mixed emotions when President Jacob Zuma unveiled the Women’s Living Heritage Monument at Lillian Ngoyi Square in Pretoria earlier on Tuesday.
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.
The four women lead a march to the Union Buildings 60 years ago today, where thousands of women from all parts of the country delivered a petition to the then Prime Minister, JG Strijdom, against the carrying of dompasses and the degradation of African women.
National Women’s Day, being celebrated on Tuesday, marks the 60th anniversary since the historic march took place.
Gogo Mita Motlolometsi from Mamelodi East, who was involved in the 1956 march, came to witness the unveiling of the monument.
She told SAnews the day was an emotional one for her because every time she looked at the office buildings in the city and saw black people working busily, she remembered that she had been part of bringing change to the country.
“We were oppressed but fought for this liberation … I was shot on the left leg and detained in a police cell to free a black person who was not allowed to work in one of these offices.”
While commending the interventions made by the democratic government to empower black people, Gogo Motlolometsi noted that black people, especially women and the elderly, were not fully liberated.
She said she wanted everyone to unite and be liberated, because there was still some oppression.
The Women’s Living Heritage Monument also has a leadership development and training centre and dedicated walls for murals, artworks and artefacts. These tell the story of women’s struggles covering more than a hundred years.
Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Susan Shabangu said the day was an exciting but emotional reflection of the country’s history – where it has come from and what women have done to contribute to where it is today.
“This day is very significant … women once more are gathered here to witness the opening of the living monument, where people can see the contribution of women across colour lines,” said Minister Shabangu.
She challenged women, especially young women, to visit the monument in order to reflect and inform their destiny.
“The women of the 1956 march played their role and today we have a Constitution which includes what women fought for.”
Minister Shabangu said it was now up to young women to protect the Constitution and ensure human rights, especially women’s rights, are not violated.
Veteran Artist, Abigail Kubheka, commended government for the changes seen post 1994, these include a decline in some crimes and policies approved to empower and protect women.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Sophie De Bruyn were among those who attended the unveiling and toured the monument.
President Zuma led the National Women’s Day celebration at the Union Buildings.