Women's Day 2016: Message from the Vice-Chancellor and Principal

Posted on August 08, 2016

On 9 August 1956, approximately twenty thousand South African women marched on the Union Buildings to protest against the pass laws, which were laws designed to limit among others, the movement, access to housing and the livelihood of black people in apartheid South Africa. The 1956 march was a brave and extraordinary act of defiance against apartheid legislation. Through this march on the symbol of the power of the apartheid state, the women of 1956 demonstrated their unequivocal rejection of apartheid.

We owe a debt of gratitude and honour to the women who marched in 1956 among whom were the likes of struggle leaders like Lilian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa and Helen Joseph.

This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the march which popularised the slogan, Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo(You strike a woman, you strike a rock). Over the course of the last 60 years, South Africa and the African continent have made great strides in advancing the rights of women, increasing our representivity and voice in society.

This National Women's Day, I am especially grateful for the leadership of thousands of South African women who paved the way in creating opportunities for us today. At the University of Pretoria, women are now the majority of the student body and there has been a pleasing increase in the numbers of women among our academic and support staff. The number of women appointed in senior positions at UP is also rising. 

These achievements notwithstanding, there is still much to be done to ensure that women are fully represented across the academic programmes and staff hierarchy. 

This Women's Month, as we salute the women who marched 60 years ago, let us reflect on how we, individually and collectively, may contribute to the advancement of the struggles of women and girls in our society.


Prof Cheryl de la Rey
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
- Author Department of University Relations

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