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Wagging a worthy cause

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Today’s events come at a time when gender violence has reached all-time proportions.

PHOTO: Supplied

EVERY well-versed individual will be in support of today’s mass action under the banner #TheTotalShutdown: Intersectional Women’s March Against GBV. The action to “shut down the country” has been called for today, the start of Women’s Month, in protest against gender-based violence.

Organisers say marches will take place simultaneously in every major city across the country, with women in Lesotho, Botswana, Swaziland and Namibia coming out in solidarity with their South African sisters.

Men have been asked not to join the march and to instead show their support by donating money, staying away from work or standing in for women in the workplace.

Today’s events come at a time when gender violence has reached all-time proportions.

They also come eight days before the country marks Women’s Day, dedicated to the day when, 62 years ago, the women of this country marched to the Union Buildings, the seat of one of the most repressive regimes this continent has hosted.

They took their lives in their hands. Although the leadership and the crowd were a powerful example of non-racialism in practice, many of the protesters against the apartheid state and its racist policies were triply oppressed: black, poor and women.

But still, they came, from all parts of the country – some sleeping in chilly township halls and stations once they eventually reached Pretoria, some hiring bus coaches from the coast and the northern parts of South Africa and others walking from rural areas outside the capital.

They gathered in Pretoria because if they didn’t stand against the extension of the pass to black women, there would have been silence.

August 9, 1956 is indeed a day of iconic moments that remains revered six decades later.

Today’s women are fighting a different struggle – gender violence. Dozens of women are dying at the hands of their menfolk, many of them their intimate partners. Femicide is a daily reality.

One of the 24 demands that will be presented at the Union Buildings is that “the state must do everything within its powers to allow women to realise our right to be free from violence, whether it emanates from the public or private sources”.

The heroines of ’56 would be alarmed at the challenges – and dangers – that today’s generation of women face.