In South Africa we have a separate, special celebration for women. National Women’s Day falls on 9 August.
It is a public holiday and it specifically seeks to celebrate women in society’s contribution to achieving freedom in South Africa – more specifically, to commemorate the actions of women in 1956 to contribute to SA’s drive for freedom and equality.
Women march in Lesotho during a past National Women's Day protest
It is slightly different from the UN’s International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March every year. Here is what Women’s Day in South Africa is all about:
Homage to struggle heroes
Inaugurated in 1994, along with a free, democratic South Africa, the public holiday commemorates a 1956 protest lead by Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa, Albertina Sisulu and Sophia Williams-De Bruyn.
Other participants included Frances Baard, a statue of whom was unveiled by Northern Cape Premier Hazel Jenkins in Kimberley (Frances Baard District Municipality) on National Women's Day 2009.
To rise up against the legislation that required black South Africans to carry the "pass" (special identification documents which infringed on their freedom of movement during the Apartheid era), on 9 August 1956, approximately 20 000 women from all over the country took to the streets of Pretoria – many carrying the children of their white bosses on their backs – to stage a peaceful march to the Union Buildings.
WATCH: MARCH LEADER SOPHIA WILLIAMS-DE BRUYN RECOUNTS THE MARCH ON 21 ICONS
The women left 14 000 petitions at the office doors of prime minister J.G. Strijdom. The women stood silently for 30 minutes and then started singing a protest song that was composed in honour of the occasion, “Wathint' Abafazi Wathint' imbokodo!” (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock).
In the years since, the phrase (or its latest incarnation: "you strike a woman, you strike a rock") has come to represent women's courage and strength in South Africa.
WATCH: DR RUTH MOMPATI SPEAKS ABOUT THE MEANING OF WOMEN’S DAY
The role of women in shaping SA society
An inspiring display of political strength, female solidarity and inner fortitude, the march on August 9, 1956, is both a reminder of the great women who helped mould South Africa and the trailblazing women who continue to lead the country forward.
Due to this public holiday, there have been many significant advances. Before 1994, women had low representation in the Parliament, only at 2.7%. Women in the national assembly were at 27.7%. This number has nearly doubled, being at 48% representation throughout the country's government.
National Women's Day draws attention to significant issues women still face such as domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, unequal pay, etc. It can be used as a day to fight for or protest these ideas.
National Women's Day is based around much of the same principles as International Women's Day and strives for much of the same freedoms and rights.