Amandla! She is Africa is back with part 2 of African women freedom fighters ! (check out part 1 if you missed it) The complexity of women fighting oppression was multilayered. They lived at intersection of racial and gender discrimination. They joined their comrades in arms to fight racism but also fought the same comrades against gender inequality. Although HIStory has diminished their role, African women played an instrumental part in fighting inequality and oppression. Today the spotlight is on women who fiercely fought apartheid in South Africa.
Women are the people who are going to relieve us from all this oppression and depression. … It is the women who are on the street committees educating the people to stand up and protect each other – Albertina Sisulu
Albertina Nontsikelelo Sisulu
Albertina Sisulu or ‘Mother of the Nation’ was a political activist and nurse and one of the most important leaders of anti-Apartheid resistance in South Africa. In 1948 Albertina joined the ANC Women’s League and in the 1950s she began to assume a leadership role – both in the ANC and in the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW). She was one of the organizers of the historic anti-pass Women’s March in 1956 and opposed inferior `Bantu’ education. Her home in Orlando West in Soweto was used as a classroom for alternative education until a law was passed against it.
Albertina was jailed several times for her political activities and subsequently constantly harassed by the Security Police. She became the first women to be arrested under the General Laws Amendment Act. The Act gave the police the power to hold suspects in detention for 90 days without charging them and in Albertina’s case she was placed in solitary confinement incommunicado for almost two months while the Security Branch looked for her husband. She was instrumental in the release of Walter Sisulu from Robben Island. In 1983 Albertina was elected co-president of the United Democratic Front (UDF), and in June 1989, the government finally granted her a passport. The following month she led a delegation of UDF leaders to Europe and the United States. She met the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher and the American President, George Bush Snr. In October 1989, the last restrictions on the Sisulu family were lifted and Walter was released from Robben Island.
Helen Suzman grew up in Johannesburg and studied and lectured in Economic history. In 1953 she decided to move into politics, and chose to fight apartheid from within the system. She initially joined the United Party, but later formed the Progressive Party and for decades was the only representative of the party in parliament. Here in the whites-only parliament Suzman fought for all South Africans’ rights and the freedom of expression. She criticised apartheid policy, gave her support to those fighting apartheid and even visited Robben Island. Helen never shied away from standing out for her opinion. Often she visited political prisoners; opposed capital punishment and arguing against the banning of the Communist Party and the banning and other restrictions. In 1975, she took up arms to tackled gender discrimination, especially discrimination against Black women. She was awarded the United Nations Human Rights Award twice and was given other honorary awards. In 1989 she retired from politics.
Check out Part 1
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