The United Democratic Front (UDF) was formed in August 1983, and was one of the most prominent anti-apartheid movements, comprising of over 400 workers', church, civic and student organisations. The non-racial movement was initially established in protest to the Tricameral Parliament for which it encouraged a boycott of the system. Further boycotts were staged by the UDF with the implementation of the 1985 state of emergency and the subsequent arrest of several affiliate leaders. By 1986, the UDF had held talks with the African National Congress (ANC) to strengthen opposition to the apartheid government.
Despite being banned two years later, it increasingly worked with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and formalised this working relationship through the launch of the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) in 1989. A nation-wide civil disobedience campaign was staged and with continued action spear-headed by the UDF, the state of emergency was lifted.
With the unbanning of the ANC and the dismantling of apartheid, the UDF had lost its function. It was therefore disbanded on 20 August 1991. In 2005, an initiative similar to the UDF was launched but was soon forgotten. Women played a significant role in the establishment and running of the UDF, and women's organisations like the Federation of Transvaal Women (FEDTRAW) were UDF affiliates and sought not only to liberate South Africa as a nation, but also liberate its women.
The role that women played in the struggle against apartheid is commemorated each year during the month of August, most notably on Women's Day which is celebrated on 9 August.
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