A colourful drawing of women of all races looking ahead

The Evolution of Women Observed From the Voices of the Past and Present

The evolution of women is a story of hope, strength and courage. It marks a turning point in the perception of women and the role they play. My definition of a woman is someone who holds the world in the palm of the hand and decides what happens to that world. All around and inside us we are women. Not only because she carries and delivers life, but because she gives new meaning to life . A woman teaches, loves, forgives, understands and creates memories. And if it is up to them, they can end the world, but because they are the light of the world, they will not dare dim the light of life.

A black and white image of a woman with a baby strapped on her back.

Observing the Evolution of Women from the Past

Once upon a time, there was a woman who took orders from everyone except herself and her children. During this era, a white woman said to her “Do this”; a white man said “Come here”; and a black man said “Lay down”. Her own children suffered neglect. In addition, the white man abused her husband and she suffered the victim’s rage. But in all of this, she learned to take it in and re-created it in her own image of light, love and humility. Furthermore, women are change agents and shape the world.

The 1956 Women’s March comes to mind when I talk about women as change agents. This particular event was a turning point in the evolution of women in South Africa and maybe all over the world. The event brought significant advances by initiating a shift in perception of women.

A black and white image of women carrying 14,000 petitions in their hands.

Introduction to the 1956 Women’s March

A black and white image of Lillian Ngoyi.

In the 1950’s, only black men were required to carry passes; a form of identification. First of all , the pass allowed them to work and live in the urban areas. Secondly, failure to produce a pass was a criminal offence. And finally, women lived with fear for their husbands. Then in 1952, the government announced that black women would also be required to carry passes. The women actively resisted the announcement. As a result, in August 1956, approximately 20,000 women of all races in South Africa marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The purpose of the March was to protest against the proposed amendments to the Urban Area Act of 1950, commonly known as the ‘pass law’.

The 1956 Women’s March was led by Lillian Ngoyi, Fatima Moosa, Helen Joseph and Sophia Williams. They left 14,000 petitions at the office doors of the then Prime Minister JG Strijdom. In addition, they remained silent for 30 minutes and afterwards, sang a slogan called; ‘Wathint’Abafazi, Wathint’imbokodo’ (You strike a woman, You strike a rock). The slogan defines the strength and courage of the women of South Africa today and had an impact on the evolution of women.

The Evolution of Women Through their Echoes and Voices

There are several women from all walks of life whom women look up to because their voices and stories exude wisdom and confidence. To talk about these women is like opening a history book that lets you into the colonial era and into why women fight for equal rights.

The voice of Lillian Ngoyi reminds us of the hardship of carrying the “pass”; a form of identification. She was an activist, a factory worker, a member of the ANC Women’s League, a trade unionist and a founding member of the Federation of South African Women. In the following quote she speaks about conditions that led to the March: “Men are born into the system, and it is as if it has been a life tradition that they carry ‘passes’. We as women have seen the treatment our men have. When they leave home in the morning, you are not sure they will come back. We are taking it very seriously. If the husband is to be arrested and the mother, what about the child?”.

The Voice of Fatima Meer

A black and white image of Fatima Meer.

Another voice that has an impact on the evolution of women is the voice of Fatima Meer. She was a South African anti-apartheid activist, educator and author. Not only was she also one of the founding members of the Federation of South African Women, she also joined the 20,000 women on that historic day in 1956.

Her words are a true reflection of the power of a woman. “Regardless of how many years we spend in this life, we get up and shout”, she said.  These words define women of today because women can also actively engage in topics that change the world. Unlike before where women were perceived as passive genders, the present brings forth a vocal woman who also has an opinion and that is a definition of the evolution of women.

Helen Joseph stood Against Racial Injustice

A black and white image of Helen Joseph.

Likewise, Helen Joseph was one of South Africa’s greatest anti-apartheid freedom fighters and women’s rights advocates. In fact, she devoted her life to fearlessly campaigning for democracy, equal rights, and uniting the people of South Africa. Moreover, she left a profound statement about the concept of the evolution of women. “I don’t doubt for a moment that the revolution will result in a nonracial society. I have just come from Groote Schuur Hospital where they now have integrated wards. For the first time in my life, I have seen it working. To me that is terribly exciting”, she said.

Mama Albertina Sisulu echoes the Evolution of Women

The latest image of Albertina Sisulu.

Similarly, Mama Albertina Sisulu is another woman who also had an impact on advances in women’s rights. Consequently, women evolve and learn from the wisdom left behind by women like her. She said: “Women are the people who are going to relieve us from all this oppression and depression. The rent boycott that is happening in Soweto now is alive because of women. It is the women who are on the street committee educating the people to stand up and protect each other”.

Mama Albertina Sisulu was an activist and nurse who became one of the most important leaders of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa . She was also a key advocate for equal rights for women. We remember her as the mother of the nation for steering the wheel towards the revolution of women.

The Deep Voice of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on the Evolution of Women

Winnie Madikizela Mandela was wearing African beads around her neck.

Finally, the voice of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela carries the pain and hope of women. She was the centre of politics during the apartheid era. Her story is about a woman who fought against inequality, prejudice and discrimination. As a result, many women today draw strength from her. During the apartheid era, she was regularly imprisoned by the National Party, tortured and was held in solitary confinement for more than a year.

She makes a valuable statement on the evolution of women: “The overwhelming majority of women accept patriarchy unquestionably and even protect it. Working out the resultant frustrations not against men but against themselves in their competition for men as sons, lovers and husbands. Traditionally, the violated wife bides her time and off loads her built-in aggression on her daughter-in-law. So men dominate women through the agency of women themselves”.

A young woman posing in front of the South African flag.

National Women’s Day celebrations

Drawing of women of all races standing together in solidarity.

As years went by, women continued to fight for equal rights. Until a day was especially chosen dedicated to them. The National Women’s Day is a South African public holiday celebrated annually on 09 August. The day commemorates the 1956 March of approximately 20,000 women of all races who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

The first National Women’s Day was celebrated in August 1995, just after South Africa had become a democratic country. In August 2006, Women of South Africa re-acted the March to celebrate the 50th anniversary, with many of the 1956 veterans present. National Women’s Day is based around the same principles as International Women’s Day, and strives for much the same freedoms and rights.

When women celebrate the day to remember those who came before us, they also remember the women of today. That is, the women who create, the ground shakers, women who choose to stay alone, the challengers, business women and women in sports. The day also acknowledges the support and love of our mothers, sisters, friends and wives. Due to the public holiday, there have been significant changes in the entertainment industry, politics, the transport industry, the corporate world, at home and in the streets. Thus, we can attest that the 1956 Women’s March led to the evolution of women in South Africa and beyond.

Ten recommendations of things to do to honour women.

Previously, before the Covid19 pandemic, National Women’s Day was celebrated by attending large gatherings where women activists rendered speeches. With the recent Covid19 pandemic, women must find creative ways to celebrate themselves. Contrary to popular belief, Women’s Day Celebrations are not a one-day thing. In fact, women celebrate for the entire month of August. These are ten recommendations women can make to celebrate themselves.

1. Collect sanitary pads and drop them off at the nearest high school or college.

2. Video call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a long time.

3. Donate clothes, bedding, furniture or tools you no longer need at the nearest women’s shelter.

4. Buy a book written by a woman. I suggest “Collective Amnesia” by Koleka Putuma.

5. Start a vegetable garden you have been thinking of starting. After all, you are what you eat.

6. Watch a good women’s movie with a few friends and observe Covid19 regulations and discuss the movie later on, wassup group chat over a glass of wine. You deserve it.

7. Follow the unpopular teenage girl on Twitter. It will boost her confidence.

8. Follow a woman’s organization on all social platforms.

9. Purchase an item at a woman-owned store.

10. Start a #Conversation that engages both male and female to address GBV (Gender Based Violence).

The Evolution of Women from the Women of Today

A colourful drawing of women holding placards in their hands

In essence, women of today represent resilience during tough times, abilities in all career paths and independent thinkers and doers just like men. If we look at how far women have come and the resilience they continue to show in struggles and challenges, it proves they are a force to reckon with.

Although the revolution of women is in the open now, women continue to face challenges such as sexual harassment, domestic violence, a pay gap, improper health facilities and in-law problems. Other struggles include worrying about late periods, whether or not to have kids, walking in heels, fitting everything in one bag, if someone else will show up wearing the same dress and aging. But despite all of these, women continue to push through barriers as they serve their mission and reach their full potential.  And from their courage, we learn to walk by their sides, taking notice of the beautiful and encouraging words they give to the world.

Ursula Burns represents the Evolution of Women

Ursula Burns wearing a beautiful smile.
The tech.com

First, it is the woman who continues to break boundaries. Ursula Burns is an American businesswoman. She was chair and CEO of VEON from late 2018 to early 2020, and a senior advisor to TENEO. She is also a member of the board of directors of Uber. The following quote by Ursula Burns represents the voice of all women: “I didn’t learn to be quiet when I had an opinion. The reason they knew who I was is because I told them”.

Thuli Mandosela on Self definition

Thuli Madonsela explaining the concept of a focused mindset

Next, is the lady who advocates justice. Thuli Madonsela is a South African advocate and a professor of law, holding a chair in social justice at Stellenbosch University since January 2018. She served as the public protector of South Africa from October 2009 to October 2016. The following words inspire women of all ages: “As an African woman, I’ve learned the importance of self-definition and living purposefully. It’s vital that every girl, as early as possible, defines who she is and what her contribution to the world will be”.

Romy Titus: A Perfect Example of the Evolution of Women

Roomy Titus image with a beautiful background of a clear sky.

Another queen who rules the airwaves is Romy Titus. Romy Titus is acknowledged as one of the leading sports journalists in the world by the Laurens Sports Foundation for her contribution to sport. Her impressive career, which spans almost two decades, has seen her earn accolades such as the Mandela Washington fellowship initiated by former president Barak Obama. She is the founder of Babies Behind Bars, a corporate event MC, as well as a keynote speaker and media coach. In her words, she asserts: “You don’t have to try too hard. You don’t have to impress people. At the end of the day, your work will do all that for you”.

Serena Williams: Unstoppable at her Best

Serena Williams playing a game of tennis

Last but not least, the following princess is on another level. Serena Williams is an American professional tennis player and former world No.1 in women’s singles tennis. She has won 23 Grand-Slam titles. Her achievements are a perfect contribution to the evolution of women. The following statement addresses every woman: “The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you are courageous: be strong, be extremely kind, and, above all, be humble”.

The Significance of the Evolution of Women in Culture

As we continue to celebrate women, let’s consider the evolution of women as an achievement for cultural change. Meaning, the evolution of women began with baby steps that turned into bigger steps women are taking nowadays. The increasing number of independent women around the world is excting. Women are at the forefront of changing the status quo. Therefore, culture as a way of life is not static. Just like the African proverb says: “If you educate a man, you educate an individual. But if you educate a woman, you educate the nation”.

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