Cape Town - Fifty-eight years after tens of thousands of women marched to the Union Buildings decrying the pass laws, a small band of about 200 – and some men – marched on Saturday in Cape Town.
Billed as the “Women’s Humanity Walk”, the march from St George’s Cathedral to Artscape focused on an issue of a different kind.
Marchers chanted “No means no” and “Enough is enough”, while others held up posters reading “Stop abuse”, “Women Unite” and “Real men don’t rape”.
Three Harley-Davidson motorcycles led the parade, and a woman in a leather jacket raised her hand again and again and shouted, “Amandla!”
Rape Crisis Cape Town’s Sarah Strydom said it was important to spend the day reflecting on the 1956 march to stop it becoming “watered down” as a sort of “pamper day”.
“We need to keep the momentum up and keep people aware,” she said.
Elizabeth Peterson, from the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum, said the marchers were not walking alone but against the backdrop of the conflict in the Middle East, and the missing Nigerian girls.
“We think of those women far from us physically, but also experiencing the same kind of tragedy,” she said. “We also carry with us those women who have been trailblazers.”
Ten different women religious leaders led the marchers in prayer before the walk set off from St George’s Cathedral in Wale Street.
Anglican bishop Margaret Vertue said: “We pray that women of all faiths whom God calls into leadership may not be prevented from using their God-given gifts… that we cling to the vision and demand what we can be.”
Jewish representative Dr Tzili Reisenberger asked that all parents be strengthened “to instill a sense of confidence in all girl children so that they grow to know that no one is more worthy than them”, while Agnes Dyabuza of the deaf community prayed for disabled women facing abuse.
Cultural Affairs and Sport MEC Professor Nomafrench Mbombo said the interfaith leadership of the march showed that women’s issues cut across all spheres.
“It has no colour, no class, no culture,” she said.
Walkers Lynn Stevens and Rochelle Roman brought a bunny-eared, one-year-old Lilly-Grace along to experience the day.
“It’s important for us to show Lilly-Grace how important she is, and to show our support and our strength in numbers,” said Stevens.
Edwina Abrahams, of the Tiervlei Cultural Arts Development Organisation, said the march celebrated women in a spirit of diversity and harmony that was “absolutely phenomenal”.
“With so much energy, I’m sure a lot will be achieved,” she said.