Female Resistance To Apartheid The Black Sash

1597 words - 6 pages

Black men in South Africa are most commonly remembered for their efforts in the anti-Apartheid struggles and these black men should not be disregarded. However, a prominent political party who also resisted the Apartheid policies was a group of white women, known as the Black Sash or more commonly as Sash. These women were characterised by their black sashes embedded with the words "Eerbedieg ons Grondwet" (Honour our Constitution) in an attempt to show their mourning for the South African Constitution due to its harsh Apartheid laws.Many members of Sash felt that the black sashes initially worn for mourning of the Constitution, were later worn in accordance to the mourning of "the death of thousands of children, year after year, from deficiency diseases" as well as mourning for "the broken homes that result from an influx of control regulations." 1The Black Sash was founded in May 1955 by a tea party of six white women, with their first president being Jean Sinclair (see Appendix 1) who was later awarded an honourary doctorate by the University of Witwatersrand for her work.Members of the Black Sash "used the relative safety of their privileged racial classification to speak out against the erosion of human rights in the country. But they were not only on the streets. Volunteers spent many hours in the national network of advice offices and in the monitoring of courts and pass offices." 2Sash's initial objective was to protest against the Senate Bill which would remove Coloured voters from the common voters' role in the Cape province. The first march by the Black Sash was on 25 May 1955 and consisted of 2500 women who peacefully marched to the Johannesburg City Hall to show the mayor their dissatisfaction with the proposed Senate Bill(See Appendix 2). The mayor referred them to the government who sent the Deputy President, Mr Schoeman, to Johannesburg. The women then gathered 100 000 signatures of women who were against the Senate Bill within 10 days and marched to Johannesburg to present it to Mr Schoeman, (See Appendix 3). The protest and petition were not taken seriously by the government. The women felt these initial protests were "theatrical... it was meant to be. It woke people up and shook the Ministers a little too- respectable ladies can be such an embarrassment- but above all it got women thinking." 3 Their efforts were seemingly futile (See Appendix 4) as the Coloureds were removed from the voters' role and the Senate Bill was passed but it was this that provided the foothold for the Black Sash to develop. It also gave a new sense of liberation to the women who felt that they were doing something to help the people of South Africa in a sector where they previously had no influence.After the Senate Act was passed, the Black Sash continued to oppose it by displaying posters which read "The Senate Act- Legal now but Immoral forever" (See Appendix 5). The Black Sash also reassessed their aims and objectives which were "To conduct...

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