National Women’s Day in South Africa

On Thursday, August 9th, was National Women’s Day here in South Africa, so here’s a little history lesson for you all to start off this post! National Women’s Day is a public holiday that started in 1995 in remembrance of one of the largest protests in South African History.

On August 9, 1956, about 20,000 women of all races marched to the Union Buildings to protest the pass laws requiring women to carry a document similar to a passport in order to travel to different areas within the country other than their home region. These laws were first passed for men long before the 1950s in order to segregate the population, have more control over urbanization, and distribute migrant workers.

The laws restricted Coloureds (mixed race) and Blacks from moving to certain regions of the country and made travel and life in general much more difficult. These laws were then passed for women in the early 1950s but were not enforced until 1956. At this time, women from all over the country organized the march where they asked the prime minister to meet them and hear their petition. Although the prime minister refused, the march still went on and the women handed their petition to the secretary of the prime minister. They then began to sing a freedom song that declares “You strike a woman, you strike a rock”, which is now a saying that represents the strength of women.

Although the petition and march did not end the pass laws, it showed South Africa the strength and power that women had and brought all women together as a unified force. The pass laws were eventually repealed in 1986.

womens march

Photos from the 1956 Women’s March

Because National Women’s Day is a public holiday, that means no school! And what a better way to celebrate the strength and courage of women than going on a rock climbing trip with the women of UCT Mountain and Ski Club! As a semester study abroad student I am allowed to join a few clubs while at UCT. One of the ones I joined is the Mountain and Ski Club, which plans hiking, climbing and skiing events throughout the semester. The first event I was able to attend was the Women’s Climb event to celebrate National Women’s Day. I went with a group of about 30 other girls at UCT to Higgovale Quarry right under Table Mountain. There are already bolts in the rocks and set courses so all we needed to do was set up the ropes and start climbing. I have only ever rock climbed indoors, so this was my first time trying on natural rocks. I was able to climb two routes, and it was really fun! It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be either, and when I got to the top of the quarry I got to look out over the city and ocean! Unfortunately I couldn’t climb with my camera so I can’t share the view, but it made the climbing even more worth it 🙂


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Climbing at the quarry

This event got me excited for the other hiking and climbing events the club will host and made for an adventurous National Women’s Day. If you’r interested in reading more about the Women’s March or National Women’s Day in South Africa feel free to click on the link below!

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