The month of August is known as “women’s month” in our country, South Afrika/Azania. This is due to the fact it was on the 9th of this month sixty years ago (1956) that women went on a march protesting against the extension of the dreaded pass laws to women. The pass was the most diabolical and humiliating symbol of the apartheid system. It was not enough that the pass was already an albatross around the neck of the “black male dog,” it had to be extended to the “black female bitch”, in the words of the apartheid Minister of Native Affairs, Hendrik Verwoed. And so on 9 August 1956, under the banner of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) an umbrella body of women organisations, the women of South Afrika/Azania took to the streets in protest against such.
The event was historic in a number of ways: It was a “multiracial” event that drew participants from women of all “racial groups” in SA/Azania, the first of its kind in the country. It was also a precursor to the historic 21 March 1960 protest against the same pass laws, organised and led by the Pan Afrikanist Congress of Azania (PAC), an event which changed the face of the liberation struggle in this country forever.
With the 9 August 1956 march by the women, the tradition of struggle by Afrikan women was thus maintained. This was a tradition pioneered by the likes Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Mary Bethune, Queen Nanny, Yaa Asantewaa, Queen Nzinga, Mkabayi and many others. These women couldn’t let things be since they’ve always known that Afrikan womanhood and motherhood deserve honour and respect in society. Anything that sought to bring dishonour and disrespect to Afrikan womanhood and motherhood therefore had to be challenged. The key to this self-confidence is the Afrikan woman’s self-understanding of her meaning and role in life and struggle.
Rallying her troops to take up the cudgels against British imperialists following the de-stooling and exiling of their King, the Yaa Asantewaa of Ghana asserted; “If you, the chiefs of Asante, are going to behave like cowards and not fight, you should exchange your loin cloths for my undergarments.”
However, it is rather sad to note that women still remain largely at the bottom of the pecking order of things in our country. They continue to be victims of all sorts of abuse and as a man I’m ashamed to say that it’s at the hands of men that they suffer such. And so for them the struggle continues.
Afrikan women must begin their liberation and upward thrust by defining them in ways that are dignity-affirming and life-enhancing; ways that give a deeper, richer, nobler and grander meaning to womanhood. Especially in the prevalence of the disturbing “blesser-blessee” phenomenon. Since liberation and upward thrust occur in the context of relationship, women will relate to men as fellow human beings who constitute and continue humanity in a complementary way.
Without their rightful and effective participation of in the moulding and making of society not only does truth suffer in the interpretation and living of life, but also society itself and every branch endeavour. Women are a humanising and socialising force in society.
Finally, Afrikan men must reject sexism, accept and embrace the creative challenge Afrikan women pose for us to grow and struggle at the highest level and not settle at lowest levels of understanding in the world.
*S. Malusi Maqubela is the Owner/Director of Zimba Ramabwe (PTY) LTD, an Afrikan-centered service company committed to the affirmation of mother Afrika and her peoples at home and abroad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.