This International Women’s Day, 2023, I feel like those Russian women textile workers who marched for peace and bread, and an end to World War 1 and czarism on 8 March 1917, in Petrograd, (February 23, 1917, on the Julian calendar). Their protest eventually engulfed the whole city and brought the changes they fought for.

I am living in Perth, Western Australia, a privileged life where I have a roof over my head, food on the table, and plenty to spare. Life is safe. On the outside everything seems fine, but my heart is broken. You see, like so many migrants living in Western countries, I continue to cry for my beloved country. A country where over the last three months alone more than 900 women have been murdered. Life is cheap.

This past weekend that number became very real to me when my Tannie (Aunty) Christine was murdered on her farm in the early hours of Saturday, 4 March 2023. At 74 she was still as determined as ever. Everything that young women today might take for granted, she fought for during her lifetime. As was the custom in those days, she left school at an early age, instead of getting married, she studied nursing (the first one in my family). 

During Apartheid, women had to fit neatly into their boxes too, but Christine Walters (nee Jooste), although small in stature, forged her own way. Marriages between Afrikaners and English speakers were not common. She went against the grain and later married a Zimbabwean English speaking gentlemen. She went on to carve out a great career for herself in nursing and didn’t stop working until her early 70s. Upon retirement, she took it upon herself to keep the family farm. She was also the one who was there for me and my sisters when our Dad, her brother, died at a young age. She cared. She encouraged us through her example to never stop learning, never to stand back in a man’s world, and to give your all.

But, tannie Christine, is one of so many women in South Africa who died a violent death. The cycle just keeps repeating itself. The blood of the innocent keeps calling out from the land.  My own heart cries for my beloved country. It shouts: “when will this bloody cycle end?” “When will the South African government care enough about its own people to do something?” “When will western governments like Australia, who get the some of the best people from all nations to migrate here, actually intervene to help stop this cycle?”

This International Women’s Day, a tokenist morning tea with a few female speakers just won’t cut it. 

Photo: Christine Jooste in August 1966 at her brother Willie’s wedding to Driekie Jooste.