Soligah Solomons

This UCT student reflects on the meaning of Women’s month for her in the context of the country’s history and current challenges. The writer explains that the term womxn in this article is inclusive of the LGBTI community and is conscious of the complexities regarding the coloniality of gender in postcolonial spaces. Additionally, the term is also inclusive of transgender individuals that challenge the dichotomies of gender and sex, respectively.

For as long as I can remember womxn all around the world have been fighting for their rightful spot at the table. They have challenged patriarchal stereotypes and norms. In South Africa on 9 August 1956, thousands of womxn from all cultures and ethnicities marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. They protested the pass laws which required them to carry pass books. This was one example of how Apartheid legislation aimed to control the movement of womxn within suburbs- in particular black womxn.

However, these womxn took it upon themselves to fight for what is right and it is estimated that over 20 000 womxn joined the protest. Some of these womxn were dressed in their domestic work clothes, some wore traditional clothing and some even went with their babies on their backs. This goes to show not only the extent to which these womxn went to ensure that justice was served, but also showcased how proud they were of their womxnhood.

Fast-forward to the Womxn’s Day celebration in 2014 at the King Zwelithini Stadium in Umlazi, Durban. The celebration was significant for various reasons including the fact that at the time it has been 20 years since the advent of democracy, 20 years after the adoption of the Women’s Charter for Effective Equality of 1994 and 60 years after the adoption of the Women’s Charter of 1954.

These are all moments worth celebrating but I cannot help but feel disappointed in the way society has become. These very streets that were once fought for are now the streets in which young womxn and girls are ruthlessly and brutally raped and murdered. The growing violence crisis against womxn not just sexually, but physically as well, has left me living in fear as a womxn of colour in South Africa. The thought of having to step outside and be concerned about my safety and that of other femxle relatives and close friends has in and of itself almost become a norm. How are we as womxn then to celebrate womxn’s month knowing very well that every three hours a womxn is murdered in South Africa? How do South African men celebrate this day with us, knowing that another womxn’s life has been cut short by their gender?

These are questions I found myself pondering this womxn’s month. So, Womxn’s Month: To celebrate or not to? Yes, I celebrate womxn’s month by praying every day for the families having to deal with the heartache and pain that comes with being a womxn, by praying for the safety of all womxn in the country- young or old, by praying for a better tomorrow for the next generations’ sake and by praying that the leaders of this country make decisive and informed decisions! Call me old-fashioned, but do not ever underestimate the power of prayer. Additionally, action is required, so I support and participate in GBV campaigns as well as other related activities to help make this country safe again. That is how I celebrated this womxn’s month and will continue to until womxn are free to enjoy their hard-earned freedoms. In 1956 it was apartheid laws, today it is GBV, and tomorrow I will be here standing strong, in memory of the great womxn who came before me and their fight for freedom. A fight we remember every August, a fight that gives me the strength and motivation to stand and fight for freedom and equality.