History of Women’s struggle in South Africa

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For Freedom and Equality - Celebrating Women in South African History Booklet

The book can be downloaded, printed and used by teachers as part of lectures on history and humanities.

Cover and Insert pages (pdf)

Introduction and Background: An era of Apartheid repression (pdf)

Special Profile: Albertina Sisulu 1918-2011 (pdf)

1970s: Soweto and increased pressure on the Apartheid state (pdf)

1980s: Women organise (pdf)

1990s: Women before and after the first democratic election (pdf)

2000s - Women in the new South Africa (pdf)

Wall of Remembrance: ANCWL (pdf)

Glossary and bibliography (pdf)

Celebrating the role of women in South African History and Heritage

Foreword by Mrs AM Motshekga, MP (Minister of Basic Education)

It gives me great pleasure that since I took office as Minister of Basic Education, my Department is, for the first time, launching a publication that showcases the very important role played by the past valiant and fearless generations of women in our quest to rid our society of patriarchal oppression.

While most of our contemporaries across the globe had, since the twentieth century, benefited from the international instruments such as the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which barred all forms of discrimination, including gender discrimination, we in this Southernmost tip of the African continent continued to endure the indignity of gender discrimination across all spheres of national life. Gender oppression was particularly inhuman during apartheid, where women suffered a triple oppression of race, class and gender.

The formal promulgation of the Constitution of the Republic in 1996 was an important milestone, particularly for women, in our new democracy. However, while the Constitution outlawed unfair discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, and other considerations, it will be disingenuous to suggest that the battle against patriarchy had been won in democratic South Africa. If anything, like racism, the evil of patriarchy still lives amongst us and often within us. It is against this background that we have to be even more vigilant that the gains made in the post-apartheid era are not unwittingly rolled back.

Therefore, as part of our history and heritage, it is important to recognise the role played by our predecessors in shaping a better life for all women in this country. Although today their ideal of a non-sexist and gender equitable society is still an elusive goal, these gallant women have laid the foundation from which we can realise their ideals.

There are many other moments in our journey to liberation in South Africa that we can savour, and in doing so, we dare not forget the valiant, fearless, and selfless struggles of the past generations. Hence, we deemed it fitting to launch our first quarterly publication on history and heritage with a dedicated focus on women. In that regard, we pay tribute and celebrate those women who have become an embodiment of our struggle for liberation and gender equality in the current times. The objectives of this publication are two-pronged. First, it profiles biographies of important women figures in our struggle for freedom in general and gender equality in particular. Second, while recognising the important historical figures, it also attempts to foreground contemporary biographies of women who continue to play an important role in advancing the course of women in the post-apartheid period. The biographical representations in this publication are from across the vast spectrum of South African society.

I believe this publication will provide insight into the contribution of various generations of women who took the lead to challenge patriarchy and advance gender equality. It is my hope that this publication would spur you into action, like the many women profiled, in realising a better life for all women in this great country of ours.

Last updated : 20-Jul-2015

This article was produced for South African History Online on 28-Sep-2011