Women in Black

Grahamstown, South Africa

When we went for dinner at the Settlers Monument on September 12, i was surprised to see the "Women in Black".
When we went for dinner at the Settlers Monument on September 12, i was surprised to see the "Women in Black". Having been associatd with the women's movement in Africa, i thought these were the same people. But no! These were young women who were going to serve us food.

Black in the English dictionary is always associated with bad things e.g Black magic, Black spot, Black day, Black out etc. For a moment, i remembered that in Zambia people mostly dress in black if they are attending a funeral. But for these young Women in Black in South Africa they were in Black as it was the uniform for their catering company.

Women in Black during the polycentric World Social Forum in Mali dressed that way so they could protest against wars, famine etc. It was however stunning for me to see that these Women in Black were of a white community in South Africa who were going to be serving mostly the African community from the whole of Africa who had just come to attend the Highway Africa Awards Ceremony and SABC dinner.

Indeed South Africa has changed because this would not have been the case 15 years ago. It was good to see non-racial systems being protrayed in today's world. Soon they will be hosts to the World Cup and change is surely inevitable.

The great failure of the Highway Africa conference was the low level of women-organized meetings or those that focused on “women’s issues”, with mainly women in the audience, as well delegates.

"Women in Black” was inspired by earlier movements of women who demonstrated on the streets, making a public space for women to be heard - particularly Black Sash, in South Africa, and the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, seeking the ‘disappeared’ in the political repression in Argentina. But WIB also shares a genealogy with groups of women explicitly refusing violence, militarism and war, such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom formed in 1918, and the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp in the UK and related groups around the world opposing the deployment of US missiles in the eighties.

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