Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- Millions of South Africans on Friday commemorated the sacrifices women have made for the country during a day of national festivities.
The event, celebrated with an annual public holiday, marks the anniversary of the march by 20,000 women protesting against apartheid-era pass laws at the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956.
The main event of the day took place in the Gamtoos valley in the Eastern Cape with the funeral of Sarah Baartman, who was paraded naked around Europe in the 1800s as a sexual freak from Africa.
Baartman was paraded in circuses as a savage and died as a penniless prostitute in Paris in 1816.
Her remains were on display in the Museum of Mankind in Paris until 1974.
After many years of negotiations, the French government agreed to have her remains sent back to South Africa earlier this year.
President Thabo Mbeki who addressed more than 10,000 people at Friday's ceremony described the 19th century Europeans as "barbarians.
" "The story of Sarah Baartman is the story of all the African people of our country --it is a story of our reduction to the status of objects that could be owned, used and disposed of by others," he said.
He thanked the French government for helping to ensure that Baartman finally received a decent burial.
"I am privileged to convey our heartfelt and profound thanks to the government, the parliament and the people of France for agreeing to return our Sarah to us and for living up to the noble objectives of the French revolution of liberty, equality and fraternity," Mbeki said.
Baartman's remains were buried on a hill overlooking the town of Hankey, nearly 200 years after she left Africa.