Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Ditch the roses and make-up specials for Women’s Day

Women’s Day should be when we remember the women who were brave enough to stand up and say no more.

I say no thanks to roses and make-up specials for Women’s Day. It is time for the commercialising of this day, designed to honour the 20 000 women who walked to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 to protest against the abusive pass laws, to stop.

International Women’s Day, on the other hand, celebrated on 8 March, is a global holiday to bring attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights and violence and abuse against women.

After we started to celebrate Women’s Day in South Africa in the nineties, we all knew what it was for and we were aware of the significance of what these women, some with babies on their backs, did. However, as time passed, it was easier to forget and just see Women’s Day as another public holiday.

This weekend I had to explain to a 10-year-old girl why we celebrate Women’s Day. I had to explain to her that it is not a day where men give women flowers and chocolates. It is also not a day for businesses to offer women special deals on everything from make-up to hair dryers.

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In short, it is not a day for the world to insult women by giving them special access to things they think women want. I do not mention a gender here because women also help with marketing products and services for women on this day.

Women’s Day, I told the 10-year old, is a day when we remember that there were women who were brave enough to stand up and say no more. When no one from government came to meet them and accept their petition against the pass laws, they did not become angry and start breaking things.

They stood in silence for half an hour. Then they left. They walked all the way home. They would continue the struggle wherever they could.

Now, we do not get together and walk to the Union Buildings as those women did so many years ago. We go to ladies’ teas where successful women tell us how to get our lives together and “shine”. Or we have ministers on television bemoaning gender-based violence. Or people talk about what we can do for the girl-child.

There are some noises about equality, equal pay for equal work, but not much. The ANC Women’s League national conference was organised with the help of Mdu Manana, who was found guilty of assaulting two women in 2017. Players in our national teams for women still get paid less than the men.

We celebrate Women’s Day because we must not forget, I told the 10-year-old and we must make sure it never happens again that women have to carry passes to go anywhere.

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