Women’s DayCommon Good
Women’s Day is a South African public holiday celebrated annually on 9 August. It commemorates the 1956 march of approximately 20,000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the country’s pass laws that required South Africans defined as “black” (under The Population Registration Act) to carry a pass. These laws served to maintain segregation, control urbanisation, and manage migrant labour during the apartheid era. The women left 100 000 petitions at the office doors of the prime minister. They then stood silently for 30 minutes before singing a protest song that was composed in honour of the occasion: Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have struck the women, you have struck a rock.) In the years since, the phrase (or its latest incarnation: “you strike a woman, you strike a rock”) has come to represent women’s courage and strength in South Africa. The first National Women’s Day was celebrated on 9 August 1994.
Why do we remember this day?
Women’s Day remembers the events of the 1956 march described above but also keep women’s issues in the spotlight. This holiday can be used to highlight the myriad of challenges that African women still face – such as parenting, domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, pornography, unequal pay, and schooling for all girls. It can be used as a day to fight for or protest these ideas. There have been many significant advances in women being represented in government and gaining rights that they once were not afforded, whilst there are still many important issues that should be addressed going forward.
As Christ-followers, what can we do on this day?
- Ask the women in your life (family, friends, colleagues) what in our society is unjust toward women. Listen to their hearts and learn more about the stories of women in your spheres.
- Open the Word at home. Study some women from the New Testament:
Women have been instrumental in God’s work in the world. You could draw attention to:
– Tabitha / Dorcas: (Acts 9:36-43). She was an influential woman who was known for her good deeds towards the poor. Upon her death, there was great mourning. God empowered Peter to raise her from the dead.
– The mother of John Mark hosted a church in her home (Acts 12:6-19).
– The rich businesswoman, Lydia, who upon her conversion hosted the apostolic team in Philippi (Acts 16:11-15)
– The tent-making ministry couple of Priscilla and Aquila (Acts 18:1-28) who demonstrate how husband and wife can partner together to see fruitful business, ministry and mission.
- Ask – What did these women do that was significant to the work of the Lord? What example did they show for us? What can we learn from this passage
- Allow this day to start ongoing conversations about how women are portrayed in music, movies, social media feeds, etc – are they honouring of women or not?
- Find organisations in your neighbourhood that serve women and support their work – police stations, counsellors, crisis centres, maternity wards, etc.
- Ask the Spirit to speak to you about how you can take action in your spheres to support women to thrive.
As a family, what can we do on this day?
In collaboration with the Next Generation Ministry Team of Common Ground Church we have created some age-appropriate resources to engage kids in conversations around the public holidays that we celebrate in South Africa.
Here you’ll find a short, simple video clip that explains the significance behind Women’s Day in South Africa. There is also a placemat template that you can print out for each family member to use on the 9th of August as their placemat for mealtime.
Here are some ideas for how to have a conversation with your kids around public holidays:
- Watch the video clip beforehand and read up about the public holiday so that you are aware of the context behind it.
- Find a time in the day (we recommend a mealtime) where you watch the video clip as a family and talk about it afterwards.
- Print out the placemats for your kids to colour in and answer the questions on the placemat. Allow the placemat to be a conversation starter over your meal.
- Bring God into the conversation; speak about God’s heart for justice and show passages in the Bible that speak to this. Pray for those who don’t have their human rights protected.
We trust that these resources can equip you in having conversations with your family about South Africa, our past, and God’s heart of justice and love for all people!