Every year on 9 August, South Africa celebrates National Women’s Day in recognition of the role that women played in the liberation of the country from Apartheid. On 9 August 1956, over 20,000 women marched onto the Union Buildings in Pretoria protesting the Pass-Laws that restricted the movement of women of color in white areas to certain times of the day. The demonstration was a resounding success and is nationally recognised as one of the political milestones that marked the events that challenged the apartheid government to eventually usher in democracy in 1994. While National Women’s Day celebrates the courage of those women back in the day, it has also evolved into a day to promote women’s rights within the community and to call out government to act on unfulfilled promises to women in the country regarding rights such as freedom from violence perpetrated against women and girls.
On Tuesday, 8 August 2017 the Women’s Rights Unit and the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Unit, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, joined the rest of the country in celebrating National Women’s Day and Women’s Month with a movie screening and a panel discussion on community action to prevent violence against women and girls. The event took place at the Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria.
The Director Centre for Human Rights Prof Frans Viljoen opened the moving screening event by saying that National Women’s Day and the Women’s Month is always a reminder to us of the unfulfilled promises to women. He particularly decried all forms of violence against women and called on men in political leadership positions to lead by example. Tshegetso Moepi, a student from the University of Pretoria followed the welcome remarks with a passionate poem celebrating women.
It is none of my business, a movie on community action on violence against women and girls was screened by students and staff of the University of Pretoria. The movie was produced by Soul City Institute for Social Justice and highlighted the community’s responsibility in acting as Neighborhood Watches against violence on women. The audience was challenged to think of ways to end violence against women and girls in the communities where they come from through various avenues that are within the law.
A discussion took place after the movie led by Ms Welekazi Stofile (Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre) and Geoffrey Ogwaro (Centre for Human Rights). Ms. Welekazi discussed the several tiers of addressing violence against women and girls ranging from the individual level to society in general and how everyone can play a role in stopping violence against women and girls. Mr. Ogwaro spoke on rates of violence and threats to lesbian women and girls in South Africa, highlighting particularly the sexual assault of lesbian women and killings. The need for there to be hate-crimes legislation in South Africa as a means of ending violence based on sexual orientation was also hinted on during the discussion that followed.
The event was a indeed a success and gratitude goes to the staff of the Centre for Human Rights, Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, the members of the Black Women’s Movement, University of Pretoria and Soul City Institute for Social Justice for making the event a success.