Led by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, South African women celebrated Women's Day by commemorating Margaret Gazo, the late leader of an anti-apartheid protest against the pass laws in 1956.
Yesterday, along with Madikizela-Mandela, the African National Congress Women's League paid tribute to Gazo by establishing a monument in her honor. Madikizela-Mandela explained, "You go to any library, and the struggle of women has been ignored when the history of this country was written. We want to rewrite the history of women's roles."
Unfortunately, South African women have many obstacles to overcome. The rate of violence against women in the nation is astronomical. More than 64,000 women and girls are raped each year, with approximately 14,000 of them under the age of 18. South African women are three times more likely to be sexually assaulted than are American women. Many of these young women are raped by HIV-infected men who believe that having sex with a virgin will cure their disease.
However, South Africa has made significant strides towards womenís equality. Gender equality is guaranteed under the post-apartheid constitution, affirmative action laws will be initiated soon, and about one-third of the seats in the Parliament and Cabinet are held by women.
In a speech entitled "Women United: Break the Silence," President Thabo Mbeki emphasized the need for a safer environment for women. He stated that equality among South Africans would not be achieved "unless women of out country live without fear in their houses and walk freely through all the streets and villages of our country."