1956 march a victory for all South Africans

SOUTH Africa yesterday celebrated Women's Day in commemoration of the 5th anniversary of the 1956 anti-pass march led by Lillian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa, Helen Joseph and Sophie de Bruin.

Hundreds of women in Pretoria replicated the 1956 women's anti-pass law march from the city centre to the Union Buildings. Led by Tshwane executive mayor Gwen Ramokgopa, the marchers paid tribute to the pioneers of women's equality under the theme "Working together for equal opportunity and progress for women".

Ramokgopa encouraged women to follow in the footsteps of the 1956 marchers and said they needed to be involved in relevant initiatives. She called the march a "day of victory for women".

"We continue to recognise the fact that gender affairs and women development are cross-cutting issues that must be mainstreamed throughout council business, plans and programmes.

"Women need to participate in civic society forums for advocacy and be part of the monitoring and evaluation of government programmes during implementation. That will create a true partnership and will give us the support that we need to ensure that government is in constant contact with the community," she said.

Ramokgopa said the biggest challenge women face today is abject poverty.

"Women, particularly African, have to deal with mushrooming squatter camps as a direct result of scores of people from neighbouring countries seeking residence in South Africa, making our problems more complex to deal with.

"This situation has resulted in gender-based crimes or crimes in which women and children are the victims. We cannot continue to live with the fact that one in two women continue to experience domestic violence just as we cannot continue to live with the fact that only one in six reported rapes in Gauteng make it to the courts," Ramokgopa said.

She added that in celebrating women's month, the municipality will focus on providing training and experience for women entering the construction sector.

Mable Mpye, 76, of Soshanguve, said women had to unite and fight against the new struggles of poverty, unemployment and disease.

"I believe that if we stand together like those brave women in 1956 we can make our country a better place to live in. We have the power to change the world. Today I march to celebrate and salute our great struggle icons," Mpye said.

In KwaMashu, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal legislature speaker Neliswa Nkonyeni called on South African women to fight human trafficking by embarking on protest marches against the practice.

Nkonyeni urged women to fight the scourge of human trafficking at a two-day sitting of the 'women's parliament'. She said human trafficking was so serious that it separated families and reduced women to slaves.

"People are lured through newspaper adverts and other forms of media in what appear to be genuine job adverts, mostly abroad, and when they get there, their passports are taken away and they are turned into sex slaves," she said.

Thousands of people attended the two-day 'women's parliament' in which women, chosen by the various political parties, debated and discussed various issues such as nationalisation, the topical media tribunal, HIV-Aids and poverty in rural areas.

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