Message by President Nelson Mandela on Women's Day

9 August 1995

August 9, 1995 is the 39th anniversary of the 1956 women's march to the Union Buildings in opposition to the pass laws.

We have declared this day a national holiday. This is in celebration of the struggles of the women over the decades and a rejuvenation of our commitment to strive for a society free of all kinds of discrimination, more especially discrimination against women.

I am proud to be able to salute all South Africans, for the achievements of the past fifteen months. This tribute must go to our women in particular for the role they have played.

Mammoth challenges lie ahead of us. We have to sustain the momentum to build one people and a united country.

We have to create to conditions to improve the lives of the people. We are faced with the task of implementing the RDP. The women in the communities must infuse the nation with the spirit of Masakhane. We have to work together to create a culture of learning and to defeat crime.

I today make a special plea to the women in KwaZulu-Natal and in the rest of the country to rededicate themselves and reinforce the national crusade against violence. United, we can defeat violence.

At the September Beijing Conference of the United Nations women of the world will gather to chart a path for humanity towards bringing an end to the evil that continues to plague even the most powerful of nations - and that is discrimination on the grounds of sex. I am assured of the constructive contribution that our women will make at that conference.

The constitution writing process is well underway. As a tribute to the legions of women who navigated the path of fighting for justice before us, we ought to imprint in the supreme law of the land, firm principles upholding the rights of women. The women themselves and the whole of society, must make this a prime responsibility.

We call on women to take an active part and leadership positions in the coming local government elections and structures that will emerge from these elections.

Together, we have it in our power to change South Africa for the better.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation