Gauteng Tourist AttractionsWomen's Monument
Where? Union Buildings, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa
How? Call +27 (0)12 300-5200
On August the 9th 1956 over 20 000 women of South Africa, of different races, marched through Pretoria in protest to present petitions to the then prime minister, JG Strijdom. They objected to the pass law under which African women were compelled to carry 'passes'.
The march was led by four incredible women – Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams De Bruyn, and organised by the Federation of South African Women.
Although the prime minister was not at the Union Buildings to receive the petitions, and the pass laws were only repealed some 30 years later (1986), the march was a pivotal moment for the struggle towards a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa.
The monument, the work of artist Wilma Cruise and architect Marcus Holmes, was unveiled by President Mbeki in 2000. It stands in the amphitheatre in a foyer between the west and east wings and represents a hand grinding stone mounted on metal, symbolising the power of women.
The rock came to symbolise female strength, courage and power after the protest song composed especially for the occasion: 'Wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo' – you strike a women, you strike a rock (now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock).
The grinding stone has been women's main tool for thousands of years and is still essential for producing food in many communities.
The work, a multimedia and non-figurative design, is the first of its kind in South Africa and described by artthrob as 'one of the most lyrical and poetic public monuments in the country'.
Since 1994, August the 9th has been celebrated as Women's Day.