Pen the stories of women to empower them

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Documenting women’s stories, addressing patriarchy and celebrating women, topped the agenda at an inter-generational dialogue held in honour and celebration of three iconic women - Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke, Albertina Sisulu and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

The dialogue, which took place at Freedom Park, Pretoria - was an initiative of the Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke Institute (CMMI) in partnership with Freedom Park, the National Heritage Council (NHC) and Sisulu Foundation.

As part of the Women’s Month commemorations, the Minister of Women, Bathabile Dlamini, writer and activist, Elinor Sisulu, the Former Minister of the Public Service and Administration, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and Professor Somadoda Fikeni engaged on how to chart the way forward for the next generation of women.

Parliament’s Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli as programme director of the dialogue, kicked off the engagement by stating that the “empowerment of women is about levelling the playing field and treating women as equals”.  

Panelists highlighted the gap in the history of women in South Africa.

“The sad part of our history is that it has not been told, so we have a lot of work to do. So this year, we said we are going to use dialogues to reshape our policy as the department of women, because women’s issues are very dynamic and they keep on changing,” said the Minister.

Thozama April Maduma, who wrote her PhD thesis on the life and leadership of Mme Maxeke, said the glaring gaps in the history of women was brought to her attention, when she encountered the error of Maxeke’s birth date in the course of her research.

Mme Maxeke’s birth date was noted in earlier history to have taken place in 1875, the correct date is 7 April 1871, said Maduma.

Titled “lessons from South Africa’s women icons”, the dialogue coincides with the centenary of MaSisulu, who would have celebrated her 100th year this year had she lived.

Elinor Sisulu, who was married to Max Sisulu, said the upcoming generation of women leaders must move with speed in documenting the stories of women leaders and that of ordinary women into the annals of history.

“MaSisulu’s regret was that the women’s stories are not told in full, as Sophie De Bruyn will tell you that on the day of the1956 march, there were more than 20 000 women but in our history its recorded as 20 000.

“So we are the ones that need to jump and do something urgently and as part of the legacy of MaSisulu, we are appealing - as it was one of Mama’s wishes - that we record and document the social history of the women who were there at the 1956 march. We need their names and the stories of their journey on that day,” said Sisulu. –