For Women’s History Month: revisiting the Women’s Living Heritage Monument

In 1954, a group of four South African women launched what has been termed the “first attempt to establish a broad-based women’s organization”; the name of the group was the Federation of South African Women. Members of the group include Amina Cachalia, Lillian Ngoyi, Ray Simons, and Helen Joseph (pictured above, arranged from left to right).

The objectives of the Federation were to bring women together to secure full equality of opportunity, regardless of race, colour or creed; to remove social, legal, and economic disabilities; and to work for the protection of women and children.

At the Federation’s first conference, a Women’s Charter was written, calling for the voting rights of men and women of all races, equal employment opportunities, equal pay for equal work, equal rights in property, marriage, and children, and the nullification of all laws and customs that denied women such equality. Paid maternity leave, childcare for working moms, and free and compulsory education for all children were also included in the Charter.

This is a typical representation of the change that women clamour for in today’s world. The purpose of celebrating events like International Women’s Day will be lost if we do not step back to reaccess our world to ensure that we are making progress in all the important places, for example, changes as demanded in the Women’s Charter.

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