Constitution Hill Women’s Jail is a significant site of commemoration for Woman’s Month as it was once a place where ordinary women and political icons were imprisoned and encountered gross human rights violations.  The slogan for this year’s Woman’s month programme is WOMANDLA – “Commemorating The Courage & Triumph Of HERstory””

Constitution Hill, now a beacon of hope for our democracy has in its history a painful past where many political women prisoners were incarcerated for standing up for women’s rights; these include Winnie Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Fatima Meer, Barbara Hogan, Esther Barsel, to mention but a few.  During this year’s woman month campaign, it is indeed the stories of these political stalwarts and ordinary citizens which will be remembered and retold as life lessons for current and future generations never to repeat the atrocities of the past.

As a nation, we owe some of the rights and liberties we enjoy today to the sacrifice of these brave heroines of our freedom.  We should never forget the price that was paid for our emancipation as a people.  Those who came before us and some of those who are still with us today put aside self and took a bold step to declare to the nation and to the world “not under my watch” and put shoulder to the shovel offering the supreme sacrifice of personal freedom.

There is indeed some urgency for the stories to be told. Stories of brutality, fear, intimidation, pain… and ultimately victory.  For our nation, it is important to ensure that what took over 100 years to conceive and 23 years as a growing democracy to build should not be allowed destroyed in a blink of an eye if we as a people forget crucial lessons from our past.

It is important for intergenerational discourse to take place lest we forget the high price of our freedom which in many instances was brought with blood.  The struggle indeed continues today it is slightly different however but it needs the same passion, anger and determination showed by stalwarts of old.

The programme for the month is a robust and engaging programme with overriding themes of reciting scenes of the past and having essential dialogues the plight of women in our present-day democracy as well as the pivotal role of our Constitution. It is “history” as told by the voices of women, and therefore titled #HERstory.

The activities include a Democracy Dialogue by Thuli Madonsela, two exhibition launches, one of which depicts artworks by Fatima Meer which she painted while incarcerated at the Women’s Jail, a Night Tour and Storytelling by former prisoners of the Women’s Jail, a Long Table Intergenerational Dinner, as well as a Commemoration of Charlotte Maxeke and Adelaide Tambo.

The full #HERstory programme:

  • 4-6 August 2o17: Mzansi Women Film Festival
  • 4 August 2017: Women in Media Conference
  • 8 August 2017: “Pride & Loss” exhibition launch, curated by Zanele Muholi
  • 9 August 2017: #Demologues Intergenerational Dialogue by the Thuli Madonsela Foundation
  • 12 August 2017: Gender Agenda Forum Workshop
  • 17 August 2017: She Runs the Night women’s night run with performance artist Anthea Moyes
  • 17 August 2017: Women’s Jail Night Tour & Story Telling with Women’s Jail former prisoners
  • 22 August 2017: Fatima Meer exhibition
  • 22 August 2017: Intergenerational Long Table Dinner
  • 23 August 2017: POUT Magazine Launch
  • 24 August 2017: Activate Women’s Dialogue
  • 25 August 2017: Department of Basic Education Commemoration of Charlotte Maxeke & Adelaide Tambo
  • 26 August 2017: Creative Women’s Conference
  • 30 August 2017: Gentle Brothers Dinner & Conversation

Full programme details on

As we approach this special day in the history of women, it is important that we commemorate, honour and celebrate the courageous and brave women who publicly stood up for the rights of women in 1956.

About Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill is a national heritage site and home to the Constitutional Court of South Africa. The precinct is an effective custodian and proponent of Constitutionalism, Human Rights and Democracy in South Africa.  “It is a living breathing museum where the past, present and future collide in a glorious paradox that celebrates the victory of our present day democracy. It leaves you forever changed with the unrelenting resolve ‘never again must one human being treat another human being in this manner’ ” – Dawn Robertson, ConHill CEO.

ConHill presents art exhibitions, dialogues, films and public programmes that are intended to spark lively and engaging experiences related to Constitutionalism, Human Rights, and Democracy at the iconic precinct, situated in the Johannesburg CBD. Constitution Hill is also open to the public for guided tours to the Women’s Goal museum, Number Four museum, and Old Fort museum. This includes the notorious Old Fort Prison Complex and Number 4 where South Africa’s leading political activists, including Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, were detained. Constitution Hill is a subsidiary of the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency and presents an important platform for Heritage, Education, and Tourism related programmes.

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