We are truly not yet free!

It’s been 20 years since the first Women’s day was held to mark a significant event. That was the day great South African women leaders, including Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophie Williams, marched on the Union Buildings to give apartheid Prime Minister JG Strijdom a petition against pass laws.

It was August 9, 1956 – not a good time to be black, and especially to be a black women in the country. Although the heroines named above and many other brave South African women are in our struggle firmament today, their defiant acts happened out of enormous courage.

We cannot forget this. We must tell our children, and make sure these stories become part of what they tell their children too.

But we can’t soft-soap the truth for many South African women today. And that is that they live in a hazardous country where even the police and the government seem to be largely unable to protect them in the war against violence and abuse.

It’s a serious state of affairs. We know that women in Afghanistan battle profound discrimination.

We know that many girls in Pakistan are not able to attend school. We are terrorized by the thought of female mutilation in some African countries.

Yet even with our magnificent constitution and a ruling party which unequivocally supports the equality of women, we would gall into the category of countries where it’s hard and often dangerous to be a women.

It would be wrong to say the government is not trying. It would be wrong to say that the national police commissioner does not have violence against women on her radar; or that there are no mechanisms in place to try and counteract the horrifying statistics which we notice daily.

Equally, there are many NGO’s working relentlessly at staving off the abuse that has torn families apart and destroyed women’s lives.

Yet there is no end in sight – and what a tragedy for us as a nation. We are truly not yet free