There were mixed emotions when South African President Jacob Zuma unveiled the Women’s Living Heritage Monument at Lillian Ngoyi Square in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The monument tells the story of the contribution of South African women to the country’s liberation struggle and features four statues of struggle stalwarts — Lillian Ngoyi, Sophie De Bruyn, Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Sophie De Bruyn were among those who attended the unveiling and toured the monument.

The four women led a march to the Union Buildings 60 years ago, where thousands of women from all parts of the country delivered a petition to then Prime Minister JG Strijdom against the carrying of dompasses and the degradation of African women.

National Women’s Day celebrated on Tuesday, marked the 60th anniversary since the historic march took place.

Gogo Mita Motlolometsi from Mamelodi East, who was involved in the 1956 march, came to witness the unveiling of the monument.

She told SA News the day was an emotional one for her because every time she looked at the office buildings in the city and saw black people working busily, she remembered that she had been part of bringing change to the country.

“We were oppressed but fought for this liberation I was shot on the left leg and detained in a police cell to free a black person who was not allowed to work in one of these offices.”

While commending the interventions made by the democratic government to empower black people, Gogo Motlolometsi noted that black people, especially women and the elderly, were not fully liberated. She wanted everyone to unite and be liberated, because there was still some oppression.

The Women’s Living Heritage Monument also has a leadership development and training centre and dedicated walls for murals, artworks and artefacts. These tell the story of women’s struggles covering more than a hundred years.

Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women Susan Shabangu said the day was an exciting but emotional reflection of the country’s history — where it had come from and what women had done to contribute to where it is today.

“This day is very significant ….. women once more are gathered here to witness the opening of the living monument, where people can see the contribution of women across colour lines,” said Shabangu, who challenged women, especially young women, to visit the monument in order to reflect and inform their destiny.

“The women of the 1956 march played their role and today we have a Constitution which includes what women fought for.”

Shabangu said it was now up to young women to protect the Constitution and ensure human rights, especially women’s rights, are not violated.

Veteran Artist Abigail Kubheka commended government for the changes seen post 1994, these include a decline in some crimes and policies approved to empower and protect women.