As a result of parent's reactions to the 1976 uprisings and their aftermath, ex-Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) members in the Western Cape began organising themselves from as early as 1978 and eventually formed the United Women's Organisation in 1981. The organisation took up campaigns such as childcare and the right to craches, bread price and bus fare increases. Many of the organisation's branches dealt with housing campaigns and launched rent boycotts and also defended children against the South African Defence Force or police brutality. In 1986, the United Women's Congress joined forces with the Women's Front, another women's organisation in the Western Cape and the two became known as the United Women's Congress.

The congress resolved to concentrate on grassroots work involving problems of the people in oppressed communities, they encouraged women to involve themselves in problem-solving strategies when dealing with issues that affected them and most importantly they aimed to unite all women in the fight against apartheid. UWCO also played an important role in setting up civics in the 1980s and as one of the few organisations that existed at the time, they spearheaded the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF). In 1986 the organisation began a process of re-establishing the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW). In addition to this, the women of UWCO worked towards a structure that united women's organisations such as the Natal Organisation of Women (NOW) and the Federation of Transvaal Women (FEDTRAW).

Ongoing project in commemoration of the 1956 womens' march against pass laws

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