Women’s Day must honour all women in South Africa - Debate on National Women’s Day: The emancipation and empowerment of women

2017-10-18
Dr Pieter Mulder

Women's Day in South Africa must celebrate the role and struggle of all women in the country's history, not just those of the ANC.

The importance of women has long been very important for the Afrikaner. It is beautifully illustrated at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, which was designed in the 1930s and where the figure of a woman was placed centrally at the front of the monument, recognizing the role played by women in history.

Read Dr. Mulder’s full speech here:

Debate on National Women’s Day: The emancipation and empowerment of women

Parliament: 18 October 2017

Dr. Pieter Mulder: FF Plus MP

Speaker,

The song “Now You have touched the Women, You have Struck a Rock" will always be part of the ANC women’s march to the Union buildings in 1956. When they arrived at the Union Buildings the prime minister was not willing to meet them.

There had been more women’s marches to the Union Building that must be celebrated.

On 4 August 1915, 6 000 Afrikaner women delivered a petition on behalf of 40 000 people for the release of General Christiaan de Wet, one of the heroes of the Anglo-Boer or South African war. The then prime minister, General Jan Smuts, sent a message to the women that he was not willing to meet them or to accept their petition. They were also not allowed into the amphitheatre at the Union Buildings.

On Saturday 22 June 1940, 10 000 Afrikaner women also marched to the Union Building for peace. They were also ignored by the government.

Speaker, it is sad that we still debate the issue of the emancipation and empowerment of women in the year 2017. These issues should have been solved long ago.

My wife is a teacher and she summarises these issues with this quote against her classroom’s wall: “Anything women do (today) they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily this is not difficult."

Today, I want to pay tribute to Afrikaner women, to their inner strength and their role in history. Too easily, they are pictured by some historians as submissive and weak.

In any struggle, women and children are usually the ones suffering the most. By the end of the Anglo-Boer – or South African war in 1902 there were 160 000 Afrikaner women and children and 130 000 black people in British concentration camps. In total 32 000 of the Afrikaner people and approximately 20 000 black people died in those British concentration camps. That is ten times more Afrikaner women and children than the number of Afrikaner men who had died on the battle field. Yet, at the end the women advised the men to continue with the war. They were the real “Bittereinders”.

My grandmother, Maria Mulder, was in such a British concentration camp where she lost family. After the war she only referred to it as the “English War”. According to her, the British had caused it as part of colonialism and British imperialism.

When the Voortrekker men decided in 1843 not to resist the British annexation and colonization of Natal, the women under Susanna Smit exploded. They pointed out that after the battles in which they fought with the men, the men assured them that they could jointly make decisions on future matters affecting the country. The women said they would rather walk barefoot across the Drakensberg than to give up their freedom and be under British control again. Anglican captain Henry Cloete, who negotiated with the Voortrekkers on behalf of the British government, was shocked that women were allowed so much freedom. He wrote in his diary: "These women are a disgrace to their husbands".

Today we are proud of them.

At the Voortrekker Monument, which was designed in the thirty’s’ of the previous century, the architect decided to place the figure of a women centrally in front of the monument in recognition of the important role that women played in our history.

Speaker, Women’s Day should celebrate and commemorate the role and struggles, not only of ANC women, but of all women in South Africa’s history.


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