Today a group of activists and organisations called #TheTotalShutdown mobilised thousands of women across South Africa in a protest march to highlight gender-based violence in the country and call on government to take more decisive action. Total Shutdown marches were reported in all nine of South Africa’s provinces, as well as in Namibia and Lesotho, according to Daily Maverick.


total shutdown march south africa

Women on the ground shared their exasperation at the endless violence (and threat of violence) that is part of their everyday lives. The crowd in Cape Town was several hundred women strong, and the march was very intersectional. People with disabilities were supported and included, and violence against trans people, LGBTQ people and gender-non-conforming people were highlighted. Here are some of the most powerful and moving moments from today:

Yulin Yuan, (aged 21) says “we are marching against gender based violence” Right: Milage Lang (20) says “ I\m marching for the right to exist peacefully in this world, especially today as a womxn”

Yulin Yuan (left) and Milage Lang (right)

Yulin Yuan, 21, says, ‘We are marching against gender-based violence.’
Milage Lang, 20, says, ‘I’m marching for the right to exist peacefully in this world, especially today as a womxn!’

total shutdown womens march

Lynn Abrahams

Lynn Abrahams says, ‘The coffin is symbolic of those who have died as a result of rape, murder and gender-based violence. It has the names of children who have died and is coloured black for mourning.’

totalshutdown south africa group of womxn with signs one reading “we are not ovaryreacting” 

From left: Jess Mathew, 16, Amber Mcleod, 18, Kiera Lalu, 16, India Wash, 16

‘We are sick and tired of the shit that we have to put up with as women, and we’re here today to try do something about it. Protections for sex workers and decriminalisation isn’t in the memorandum and we think it should be. It’s an honest living and it being illegal makes it so hard for people to get help.’

total shut down #totalshutdown protest

A woman and her granddaughter, who wish to remain anonymous

‘I am a rape victim and I want to tell my granddaughter that no is no and forced sex is wrong. Silence allows violence.’

thetotalshutdown wmens march south africa protestor holding a sign

Susan Khumalo

Susan Khumalo, 27, says, ‘I am marching because I’m against the abuse of children and I want to fight for our rights!’

protestor at the womens march cape town

Keshni Moodley

Keshni Moodley, 22, says, ‘I am here because I experienced sexual violence and I’m proud to say that I survived.’

the total shutdown march womens march south africa

Carin Bester

Artist Carin Bester, 34, says, ‘How can you look at the statistics of women, children and gender-non-conforming people being raped and violated and not march? I have nieces and nephews and sisters and friends and the fact that they could be raped is enough to make me stand up and demand change!’

#thetotalshutdown protest south africa

Axola Madondile

Axola Madondile, 19, says, ‘I am marching because a cousin of mine was raped and I’m here to honour her and all the womxn who have suffered abuse. I come from a family where there was abuse and I have experienced it myself. I’m here to say that abuse is no way for men to confirm their masculinity!’

woman protesting at the women's march cape town

‘Today I march so that one day my daughter will not have to,’ says Tarry Doherty, 23

After the memorandum was handed over to a representative at Parliament, organiser Onica Nonhlanhla Makwakwa wrapped up by saying that they have delivered their demands. ‘We do not want your “happy Women’s Day” wishes. It will be a happy Women’s Day if they respond to our demands.’ Onica was described by organisers and marchers as the dreamer who launched the movement.

Many organisations were present in Cape Town for the total shutdown today: Gender Dynamix, Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children, Ubuntu Rural Women and Youth Movement, the Rural Women’s Assembly, the Scalabrini Centre Cape Town, Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies, South African Faith and Families Institute, and Child Welfare South Africa, among others.


*Editor’s note: All the images and quotes in this story are from the Cape Town march, but we will be updating our site with more information from other marches tomorrow.