AUGUST 9, 2001

For one day a year, events are organised across South Africa in celebration of women and the role they have played in the shaping of our country. We applaud the heroines of the liberation struggle and pay tribute to those who have selflessly made remarkable sacrifices for the sake of freedom. We honour every woman who has laboured to birth our beloved country, by perseverance, courage, fortitude, intellectual and artistic contribution, and a deep, unfathomable compassion.

These women have made South Africa what it is today. Now, in a new era, it is their daughters who sustain this work and create with their hands and their hearts an ever better tomorrow. On Women's Day 2001, I wish to raise our awareness of these women, who work day in and day out, unnoticed, quietly generating the strength of our nation. Not only on this day, but every day, our women in the police force risk their lives to protect strangers. Each day, our women in hospitals and clinics suffer the tremendous burden of healing, tending and educating.

In schools, they are expected to all but raise our children. In shops, to serve us with a smile. In countless offices, they not only create some of our country's greatest wealth, but often also order the stationary and make the coffee that keeps business running. In banks and on customer care lines, their endless and often superhuman patience is expected, not necessarily appreciated. In factories, their souls are tested, yet they endure. On farms, they daily engage in back breaking labour to make our lives more comfortable and supply the produce we eat.

These are our great South African daughters. I believe that today should highlight not only what they do for us every day, but the fact that at the end of the day, these women get together, talk and laugh, cook, and clean their homes, nurture their children, and create by their presence in our lives a gentler, better existence. These women have relationships. They give and share. They listen and speak. In a world where the harsh realities could cause us to lose compassion, time and time again women are the lifeblood of peace, joy and reconciliation.

Today, I honour these women of South Africa. By all accounts they are ordinary people, yet each in her own way makes an extraordinary difference.

Today, we take notice. Today is your day; thank you.