Five inspirational quotes by South African women

#WomenUnlocked: Five inspirational quotes by South African women

"You strike a woman, you strike a rock." Those powerful words have inspired women of all ages and from all walks of life - and have epitomised the strength of South African women through time.

Women's march

In 1956, 20,000 South African women marched to the Union Buildings to protest against the Pass Laws. These were women of all races, creeds, and cultures - some with their babies on their backs.

A petition with 14,000 signatures was handed over by these powerful women and they stood in silence for half an hour before singing a protest song – 'Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo', which means, "You strike a woman, you strike a rock".

Years later and we still draw inspiration from these words and many other quotes from South African women. 

This Women's Month, we share some of the quotes by the women of 1956, that inspire us. 


“Regardless of how many years we have spent in this life, we must get up and shout.” 

Fatima meer

Fatima Meer was a South African anti-apartheid and human rights activist, educator, and author. She was also one of the founding members of the Federation of South African Women and joined the 20,000 women at the Union Buildings on that historic day in 1956.


“I stand for simple justice, equal opportunity and human rights. The indispensable elements in a democratic society – and well worth fighting for.”

Helen Suzman

Helen Suzman was an ardent liberal and an iron lady who stood against racial prejudice, nationalism, and injustice in her quest for a free and democratic South Africa.


"The overwhelming majority of women accept patriarchy unquestioningly and even protect it, working out the resultant frustrations not against men but against themselves in their competition for men as sons, lovers and husbands. Traditionally the violated wife bides her time and off-loads her built-in aggression on her daughter-in-law. So men dominate women through the agency of women themselves."

Mamma Winnie Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was a firebrand activist who fought the apartheid regime in South Africa. She was regularly imprisoned by the National Party, tortured, and held in solitary confinement for more than a year.


"Women are the people who are going to relieve us from all this oppression and depression. The rent boycott that is happening in Soweto now is alive because of the women. It is the women who are on the street committees educating the people to stand up and protect each other."

Albertina Sisulu
Albertina Sisulu Centenary

Albertina Sisulu, widely referred to as the “Mother of the Nation”, was an activist and nurse, who became one of the most important leaders of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and a key advocate for women’s rights.


“Men are born into the system, and it is as if it has been a life tradition that they carry passes. We as women have seen the treatment our men have – when they leave home in the morning you are not sure they will come back. We are taking it very seriously. If the husband is to be arrested and the mother, what about the child?”

Lillian Ngoyi

Lillian Ngoyi was an activist, a clothing factory worker, a trade unionist, a member of the ANC Women’s League, and a founder member of the Federation of South African Women (FSAW). She was described as "the woman factory worker who is tough granite on the outside, but soft and compassionate deep down."

READ: Women Unlocked: How Amina Msimang started a successful online store

IMAGE CREDIT: Twitter/womensmarch

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