Women’s Day in Knysna

August 9th 2017

Why Women’s Day

While I’m not a lecturer as such, I do think it is important to understand the background of Women’s Day here in South Africa.  It was in 1956, during the heydays of Apartheid, when the women of South Africa stood up against the dreaded ‘passes law’, which restricted movement within the Republic of South Africa.  It allowed for the then government to allow only certain category of people to enter certain areas or regions.  It therefore restricted freedom of movement and freedom of settlement too, as male laborers were  allowed to move into certain areas, but their families were not allowed to join them on a temporary, let alone permanent basis.

On the 9th of August 1956 the Federation of South African Women (FSAW or FedSAW), supported by the ANC and the Congress of Democrats (COD) brought an estimated 20,000 women together at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act, as the passes law was officially known.  Although neither the prime minister nor any of his senior staff were there to address the women or to accept their petitions.  The women wouldn’t just leave, but stood in absolute silence for half an hour, before they sang Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika (God bless Africa) together, before leaving the stadium.

Women’s Day celebrations in Knysna

Fortunately petitioning and marching against freedom of movement  is no longer necessary, but you can imagine the feeling in the hall earlier this afternoon, as the women of Knysna and as far as Plettenberg Bay and Mosselbay sang the National Anthem to open the celebrations commemorating those brave women of 1956.

The afternoon brought local singers, powerful theater pieces from the region as well as dancers, actresses, opera singers, poets and tv personalities from as far as Cape Town.  A cultural afternoon filled to the brim with the most talented women (and a few men) bringing tears to my eyes on several occasions.  How far the women of South Africa have come, yet at the same time how much more still needs to be done.

The stories portrayed contained strong messages.  Messages of hope, but also stark messages of the inequalities women of today still struggle with: stories of rape, gangsterism, gender inequality and general suppression of women to live their lives in full freedom.

For me personally it was great to see women from all walks of life come together, some dressed in traditional gear, some ready to go to the hippest club in town, some old, some young, some black, some coloured and some white.

But all women!  Strong women!


Want more on the Women’s Day celebrations in Knysna?

For pictures check our Facebook page: Women’s Day celebrations

For a short video of the (women 🙂 ) gumboot dancing to the man they had just given birth to, check our YouTube Channel: Gumboot dancing with a difference

For local talent Sinethemba showing off her beautiful voice and the audience joining in: Knysna talent Sinethemba




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