Why We Are Inspired by the Women of 1956

“The struggle continues,” said Kate Groch on Women’s Day at Londolozi Digital Learning Centre.

It is a lesser-known fact that South African women marched on government in 1956 in protest of pass laws. In this extract from a speech that she made on August 9th, Good Work Foundation CEO, Kate Groch, celebrates the power of 20 thousand women, and asks how South African women living in a post-apartheid land can (and must) carry the spirit of 1956 forward.

Most important, Kate reminds us that it is important enough to continue the struggle.

Kate Groch capping a Good Work Foundation graduate in March 2014. More than 80 percent of GWF students are made up of women.

Kate Groch capping a Good Work Foundation graduate in March 2014. More than 80 percent of GWF students are made up of women.

The story of women in South Africa is part of the story of a struggle against Apartheid. It is a story of courage and inspiration, and it is a story that shows us that ordinary people like you and me have the ability to do extraordinary things.

Over the years during the struggle against Apartheid, women came together. They fought side by side for freedom, for dignity and for their families. Most importantly, they fought side by side for our country.

They fought to make this beautiful land of ours a better land, a better land for their children. Hand-in-hand with the men of South Africa they fought for a country where we could all be free. Where we could all go to school and where we could all live without fear.

So we come to why we celebrate Women’s Day today, the 9th August. We celebrate it because South Africa’s women, the heart and soul of our nation, took a stand.

On August the 9th 1956 a song broke out in protest “If you strike the woman, you strike a rock!” and the South African government at the time was about to find out just how very true that was.

20 thousand women marched on the seat of government in Pretoria. They came from all over South Africa; big cities, small towns, farms and rural areas.

They came because it was important enough.

They came to protest against a law that would make it compulsory for African women to carry Pass Books (an internal passport system that restricted the movements of black South Africans). These women knew that the consequence of what they were doing could be arrest, jail, beatings and even worse.

But it was important enough.

And so it is their courage and determination that we celebrate today. We celebrate and remember them. We thank those women and those who came before and after them for all they did to create the country we have today.

The beautiful young students of Madlala Digital Learning Centre.

The beautiful young students of Madlala Digital Learning Centre.

The mark of the 1956 protest was that it was peaceful. The women’s strength was in their resolve. They were committed to bring about change. They were determined and they stood together.

Extraordinary women, mothers, grandmothers, daughters.

And as the oppression continued, they proceeded with dignity and refused to be silenced. Until victory was theirs and ours.

And it is in a country that they fought for that we find ourselves today. But we cannot just remember and thank the women of the past.

It is a day for all of us – men and women, young and old – to take a stand. The country those brave women dreamed of for their children has not been achieved yet.

The struggle continues.

Many South African people, and especially women and children, still live in fear. This is the new struggle, one that you will have to be brave enough to stand up and fight for. A country free of violence against men, women and children.

Ours is not a struggle to create opportunities.

Ours is a struggle to make good use of the opportunities that people sacrificed to make possible for us.

It is a struggle that calls on us to focus on our education and create our own futures.

Grade four "girl power" students from Tfolinhlanhla Primary ay Hazyview Digital Learning Centre.

Grade four “girl power” students from Tfolinhlanhla Primary ay Hazyview Digital Learning Centre.

It is a struggle that means building respect for yourself. No one who has true respect for him or herself will hurt another human being.

It is a struggle to become the best that you can.

It is a struggle to discover your talents and to use them for other people.

It is a struggle not to be selfish but to use yourself to help others.

It is a struggle to continue fighting for a country that we can all be part of and a country that we can all be proud of.

So from all of us at Good Work Foundation, Londolozi, Hazyview, Madlala and Philippolis, we celebrate all women both here in South Africa and all over the world.

And we ask what it is we can do in continuing to fight for this wonderful country of ours.

It is important enough to continue the struggle.”

"I commit to creating spaces of wonder and learning." - Kate Groch

Kate Groch making her #MadibaDayPledge in July.

As the CEO of Good Work Foundation (GWF), Kate Groch believes that every person deserves access to world-class education, no matter where he or she is from. Kate has been working with grassroots education in Africa since 2003 and has established four digital learning centres, each providing digital, English and emotional literacy to rural South Africans. In 2014, over 200 rural adults will graduate with an International Computer qualification, and more than a 1000 public sector school children will have access to a digital learning curriculum at GWF’s Open Learning Academies. You can watch Kate Groch’s 2013 TED Talk, “From Chance to Choice” here.   

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