JOHANNESBURG, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) - South Africa's Women's Day on Saturday is marked by a mixture of activities that celebrated womanhood and at the same time urged further strides in protecting and advancing women's rights, South African Press Association reported.
Women's Day is celebrated internationally in March, but in South Africa, Aug. 9 marks the day in 1956 that thousands of women descended on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to demand the withdrawal of pass requirements for women, and the repeal of the pass laws.
A "pass book" or a "dompas" was a document that severely restricted black South Africans' freedom of movement during apartheid. It contained details of areas that the holder was limited to, and violation of this, or not being able produce the pass book, was punishable by imprisonment or forced labor.
At first only black men had to carry passes, but in 1956 the Nationalist government decided to extend it to black women, who organized the march.
Women's Day events on Saturday ranged from South Africa's " largest belly dance show" in Cape Town, a documentary film festival by female film makers in Johannesburg, to a speech by President Thabo Mbeki calling on the nation to stand up against the abuse of women.
"Violence against women violates the rights and undermines the dignity of our sisters, mothers and daughters. It undermines our democratic victory," said Mbeki at a function in Ga-Matlala, North West province.
African National Congress president Jacob Zuma said National Women' s Day should be protected against being "diluted" to suit commercial interests and should remain a political holiday.
"National Women's Day is the celebration of the role and contribution of women to public life, in the struggle for freedom, in the building of a new non-racial and democratic South Africa and in building our future," he said.
In Tshwane, Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa said the province was getting more girl pupils to finish matric than before and spoke about their skill in mathematics and science.
He told the audience at the Union Buildings about the province's plans for 20 early childhood development centers which would be children's daycare facilities with an educational slant.