Kathrada Foundation to take forward the legacy of 1956 Women’s March

Written by on August 11, 2020


The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, on 09 August, has launched a public initiative which aims to document the history of female anti-apartheid struggle activists who took part in the 1956 Women’s March to the Union Buildings. This will be done through the ‘1956 Women’s March Roll Call of Honour’ initiative.

Members of the public are invited to be part of a campaign that will enrich the knowledge that currently exists on the historic march where more than 20 000 women united against apartheid’s pass laws. This can be done by anyone who is in a position to help us by identifying the women who were part of the march. The public submissions should be sent by email, using the address info@kathradafoundation.org with the subject line ‘1956 Historical Roll Call of Honour’.

The list of participants, once compiled, will be housed at the South African History Online which is a non-profit history and heritage project.

“The march demonstrated the organizational capacity and role of women in the liberation struggle”, said Executive Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Neeshan Balton.

“The stories of the four leaders of the women’s march have been significantly documented but very little is known about the other women that were also involved”, Balton said.

“Ma Albertina Sisulu often spoke about how women spent their own money to travel to Pretoria, sometimes against the wishes of their husbands. They did not even have phones in their homes at that time let alone the means of communication that we have today. To bring together more than 20 000 under those circumstances to participate in the march to union buildings was truly a miracle of mobilisation”, commented writer and activist Elinor Sisulu.

To kick off the campaign, the Kathrada Foundation has already collated a list of over 40 women, presented in an easy to use Google document. The aim is to develop a longer and detailed history resource for future generations.

“This work is in line with the key objectives of the history work of the Foundation which aims to preserve and promote South Africa’s liberation history. During this month, we are also marking what would have been the 91st birthday of lifelong activist, Ahmed Kathrada. As we reflect on the values of Kathrada we are proud to be undertaking on a project that acknowledges the contributions of all those who made their mark in the fight against apartheid. “

Balton alluded to the recent visit to the gravesites of Ma Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Albertina Sisulu on the August 2 in partnership with the Sophie & Helen De Bruyn Foundation.

The tribute programme also intersected with the launch of the #FreeToFlow campaign that will address the inadequate access to sanitary pads for hundreds of school girls.

The campaign not only aims to provide sanitary pads to young women in the communities where the Kathrada Youth Clubs have already been established, but to increase awareness and to educate both men and women about menstruation.

#FreeToFlow will support the over 500 young women, and to donate towards the initiative you can visit the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation’s Backabuddy profile page. Alternatively, you can click the following link: https://www.backabuddy.co.za/champion/project/ahmed-kathrada-trust-fundraiser

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