”Written byIndio Friedmann
I got my pen out and well, there was no strike of inspiration – something that was very unusual for me. I was struggling to turn thoughts into words. I felt stuck, a feeling I have felt but in another aspect of my life – in being a women. And I realised I did not feel inspired by where we were as women today, I did not feel inspired by the perpetual violence, the toxicity of stagnation. I felt small, again, by my loss of words because of the theft of my rights – to safety and security, to equality and dignity. How did those before me face worse? Those powerful and brave foremothers.
On this day, 9 August in 1956 over 20 000 women marched to the Union buildings in an outright protest against the carrying of the dom-pas during apartheid, amongst other legislation tightening the regime’s control. That struck me. Just like our foremothers – it is hard to write or speak about being powerful when we live in a system that disempowers you. It is hard to speak up when it feels as if the other half of the country cannot hear you. It is hard to stand up when you have been given no room to stand at all. So, I turn back to those women before me – how did they overcome when times were just as bad, where women too were not socially or legally recognised as equal counterparts to men.
“They fought because they did not want to carry a pass. I carry my pass every day in my heart. Because as a woman, I can’t walk freely on the streets. We can’t claim our freedom as women in this country and so we must continue the fight” – Fatima Meeer
What I take from this day is the bravery passed down from those women before me – those 20 000 and those 4 incredible women delivering petitions containing 100 000 signatures to the Union buildings – Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams. Those women who chanted “Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo – Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock; you have dislodged a boulder; you will be crushed”
What is the relevance of this today and why are we to learn from every woman before us?
The goal is still the same today – to exonerate, to liberate and to empower.
But to me – this starts with freeing myself from these gendered chains, to dislodged the boulder that will continue to descend and crush the societal chains. It is taking the stupidity of superiority and using that to propel you forward. I was once told “Law is no place for women, especially criminal law” and that fueled me forward to get my law degree, furthering my studies in public law. “Girls can’t play soccer” oh god, that was it – I petitioned for girls soccer at my school and played club in an all-boys team. Those words were the beginning. It is the underestimation of my knowledge and the challenge of my worth. It is the eyes that linger with glaring intention. It is the expectation of obedience and the overall feeling of being, of just being a woman in South Africa.
I say this without caution, without warning – push us and we WILL push back. Strike us, and you will strike a rock. Our silence is not unintentional, we are patient as we have strength that sits in sensitivity. We are both soft and fierce. We will always have generations of womanly power running right through our bodies. Evidently, I did not need a striking of inspiration, I have already been struck – it was the striking of the rock, the dislodging of the boulder. Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! May we continue to move and dislodge a millennium worth of boulders.