“We resolve to struggle for the removal of laws and customs that deny African women the right to own, inherit or alienate property. We resolve to work for a change in the laws… which have the effect of placing wives in the position of legal subjection to husbands, and giving husbands the power to dispose of wives' property and earnings…”
This brief excerpt from the Women’s Charter drafted on 17 April 1954 shows one of many very clear intentions the 20th century women had regarding their role in society.
Prior to the era of Lilian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa, Sophie Williams and Helen Joseph (representing the different races of females in South Africa), four women who fearlessly lead the 9 August 1956 Protest to the Office of the Prime Minister petitioning the right of women of all walks to possess a pass (Identity Documents), life was not always ‘pleasant’ for women. Women were regarded as “second-class citizens” living under the social and legal control of their fathers and husbands.
Today, thanks to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, women now also have the right to acquire property in South Africa whether as individuals in their own name or with their spouses, depending on the woman’s marital regime. Rights to equality and non-discrimination are gratifyingly the consequence of the heroic struggles of women such as Lilian Ngoyi, Rahima Moosa, Sophie Williams and Helen Joseph. May their struggle never be forgotten.
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