SA to honour women struggle icons

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Johannesburg - In a move that is set to put the struggle of South African women in the forefront, the Department of Arts and Culture announced on Tuesday that the graves of struggle icons Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi and Charlotte Maxeke will be declared as national heritage sites.

Arts and Culture Minister Lulu Xingwana said the occasion has already been gazetted and the sites will officially be unveiled at a ceremony later this month.

Ngoyi and Joseph are known to have led an anti-pass protest to the Union Buildings in 1956 in which more than 20 000 people participated. The department will also unveil the Sarah Bartman Centre of Remembrance in the Eastern Cape.

Sarah Baartman, who was displayed as a freak in London because of her unusual physical features, was finally laid to rest when her remains were buried on Women's Day in 2002, in the area of her birth, the Gamtoos River Valley in the Eastern Cape.

Baartman was born in 1789 and worked as a slave in Cape Town when she was "discovered" by a British ship's doctor William Dunlop, who persuaded her to travel with him to England.

"Through their actions, they helped to lay the foundations for the building of a non-racial, non-sexist, and democratic country," Xingwana said.

She said the country's freedom was not complete until women were free from all kinds of abuse, poverty and deprivation.

Government has declared August as Women's Month and a call has been made to all sectors of society to unite in a national effort for the empowerment of women. President Jacob Zuma is scheduled to address the main event in East London on Monday.

Xingwana said her department will also be hosting a memorial lecture later this month in honour of Dulcie September who was assassinated in exile during apartheid.

She said through the lecture the government acknowledges September's contribution towards the liberation of the people of South Africa and the personal sacrifices she made in her life.

"We have recognised that memorial lectures have been made for people to believe that they are for males and we want to change that and September deserves to be honored in this manner".

Beyond August, South Africans should continue to work towards the improvement of the lives of women in the country.

"We should not only see Women's Day or Women's Month as the only time where we promote the freedom of women, we should continue with this beyond and to ensure that the struggle of women does not go in vein," she said.