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A Proper Woman: The story of one woman's struggle to live her dreams

  1. Precariousness, dependence and obedience
  2. Inside Apartheid One Woman's Struggle in South Africa by Janet Levine
  3. The Observer
  4. History of Women’s struggle in South Africa
  5. Get Career Tips In Your Inbox

Schools, especially primary schools, need to be based on relationship and a love of learning, yet we are doing the very opposite. Intense, personal, and impassioned but also crystal clear about what has gone wrong, and therefore, how to fix it. I have just retired from teaching.

This book spoke to me in so many ways. It brought back a flood of memories and helped me to identify a number of emotions I had experienced over the years. This book was amazing. As a pre service teacher this really opened my eyes to classroom experiences, and lessons that aren't taught at uni. I wish that everyone could read this book to get an understanding of how hard educators work. I loved this book have recommended it to several friends. As an exteacher I could relate to Gabby,s experiences.

Iwas very moved by it. A must read for all teachers, educational leaders and politicians. Highlights the frustrations of teaching that is faced today. It was a fantastic easy book to read. Can highly relate to it as a teacher myself. I'm a retired Secondary School Teacher and have come to the conclusion that 'real teaching' is done in Primary School. Fantastic read and compelling story. This confronts the problems faced by educator on a daily basis, from difficult children to the ever increasing workload faced by teachers.

Education is a worse place without Gabbi teaching and something needs to be done to solve the problem Australian Education is facing today. As a pre-service teacher I think this should be on every university's booklist as it provides a real insight to the world of a teacher. This was a wonderful read for teachers who have devoted their lives to the teaching of young children. The love of the job, and children, shines through from the beginning of the book.

Then, as the author continues, she has related her dismay at the direction that teaching has taken in a way that most teachers can easily identify with. From a teacher's viewpoint, she has also been able to easily portray the amount of time and energy that so many of us put into our daily teaching routines. An extraordinary read! This should be compulsory reading for parents or anyone who says teaching is easy. Having worked in education for 30 years I've seen first hand the wonderful teachers who care so much about each student that they can't help as they would like because they are tied down with paperwork - much of it unnecessary and rules and regulations about what they can and can't do.

Teaching for NAPLAN should be abolished and teachers should be given much more classroom support to actually improve the education of our students. This book explains exactly why good teachers are burning out. Private transport had to be arranged and evasive tactics adopted for a multitude of other obstructionist measures launched by the authorities. In the circumstances it was surprising, and very gratifying to the organisers that a crowd of between 1 and 2 women gathered in the grounds of the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Although the majority were African women, White, Coloured and Indian women also attended. The crowd, most of whom came from the Rand towns, was orderly and dignified throughout the proceedings. They handed their bundles of signed petitions to Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophie Williams, the main organisers, who deposited them at the ministers' office doors. In the aftermath of the demonstration the government tried to downplay its influence by alleging erroneously that the meeting had only been successful because the organisation had been in the hands of white women.

The success of the October gathering was highly motivating and buoyed up the women to capitalise on their success. From onwards the pass issue became the single most important focus of their militancy. But at its annual conference of , but did not appear to have a specific strategy in mind. In marked contrast the FSAW immediately set about working on a plan of meetings, demonstrations, and local initiatives.

The women, carried along by a mass following of females countrywide, recognised the authority of the ANC but were not prepared to delay their own preparations. Meetings held across the country on the anti-pass ticket proved to be remarkably successful, and were attended by huge crowds.

In reply the government threatened reprisals, but when it finally began issuing reference books it did so unobtrusively, starting in white agricultural areas and smaller towns, choosing Winburg in the Free State, where FSAW presence was minimal and the women were not well-informed. Here, on 22 March , they issued 1 black women with reference books and met with little reaction.

Senior ANC officials were thereupon designated to go to Winburg immediately and Lilian Ngoyi and several men arrived in the town the next week and addressed the women. Inspired by the presence of Ngoyi, who was an excellent orator, the local women defiantly marched into town and publicly burnt their new reference books outside the magistrate's office. The authorities reacted swiftly; the offenders were arrested and charged. Subsequently it was reported that their monthly pensions would not be paid to them unless they could produce their reference books.

Again there was a wave of protest from all parts of the country, and anti-pass demonstrations were held in 38 different venues. The authorities continued to send out their units to issue the hated reference books. It was unwelcome news to the FSAW organisers that the government was persevering and that by September it had visited 37 small centres and succeeded in issuing 23 books. Although none of the major ANC strongholds had been visited and women throughout the country were in militant mood, it was clear that drastic action would have to be taken; and fast.

It decided to organise another massive march to Pretoria. This time women would come from all parts of the country, not just the Rand. They vowed that the prime minister, JG Strijdom, would be left in no doubt about how the women felt about having to carry passes. We have put together a special page on this event. By the middle of plans had been laid for the Pretoria march and the FSAW had written to request that JG Strijdom, the current prime minister, meet with their leaders so they could present their point of view.

The request was refused.

Precariousness, dependence and obedience

The plan was to consult with local leaders who would then make arrangements to send delegates to the mass gathering in August. The Women's March was a spectacular success. Women from all parts of the country arrived in Pretoria, some from as far afield as Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. They then flocked to the Union Buildings in a determined yet orderly manner. Estimates of the number of women delegates ranged from 10 to 20 , with FSAW claiming that it was the biggest demonstration yet held. They filled the entire amphitheatre in the bow of the graceful Herbert Baker building.

Walker describes the impressive scene:. Many of the African women wore traditional dress, others wore the Congress colours, green, black and gold; Indian women were clothed in white saris. Many women had babies on their backs and some domestic workers brought their white employers' children along with them. Throughout the demonstration the huge crowd displayed a discipline and dignity that was deeply impressive Walker Neither the prime minister or any of his senior staff was there to see the women, so as they had done the previous year, the leaders left the huge bundles of signed petitions outside JG Strijdom's office door.

It later transpired that they were removed before he bothered to look at them. Then at Lilian Ngoyi's suggestion, a masterful tactic, the huge crowd stood in absolute silence for a full half hour. Without exception, those who participated in the event described it as a moving and emotional experience. The significance of the Women's March must be analysed.

The Story of One Woman's Struggles in Rural Malawi

Women had once again shown that the stereotype of women as politically inept and immature, tied to the home, was outdated and inaccurate. This was blatantly untrue. The FSAW had come of age politically and could no longer be underrated as a recognised organisation — a remarkable achievement for a body that was barely 2 years old.

The Alliance decided that 9 August would henceforth be celebrated as Women's Day, and it is now, in the new South Africa, commemorated each year as a national holiday. In , government officials in the Orange Free State declared that women living in the urban townships would be required to buy new entry permits each month. In response, the women sent deputations to the Government, collected thousands of signatures on petitions, and organised massive demonstrations to protest the permit requirement. Unrest spread throughout the province and hundreds of women were sent to prison.

No further attempts were made to require permits or passes for African women until the s. Although laws requiring such documents were enacted in , the Government did not begin issuing permits to women until and reference books until The issuing of permits began in the Western Cape, which the Government had designated a "Coloured preference area".

Within the boundaries established by the Government, no African workers could be hired unless the Department of Labour determined that Coloured workers were not available. Foreign Africans were to be removed from the area altogether. No new families would be allowed to enter, and women and children who did not qualify to remain would be sent back to the reserves.

Inside Apartheid One Woman's Struggle in South Africa by Janet Levine

The entrance of the migrant labourers would henceforth be strictly controlled. Male heads of households, whose families had been endorsed out or prevented from entering the area, were housed with migrant workers in single-sex hostels. The availability of family accommodations was so limited that the number of units built lagged far behind the natural increase in population. In order to enforce such drastic influx control measures, the Government needed a means of identifying women who had no legal right to remain in the Western Cape.

According to the terms of the Native Laws Amendment Act, women with Section 10 1 a , b , or c status were not compelled to carry permits. Theoretically, only women in the Section 10 1 d category - that is, work-seekers or women with special permission to remain in the urban area - were required to possess such documents. In spite of their legal exemption, women with Section 10 1 a , b , and c rights were issued permits by local authorities which claimed that the documents were for their own protection.

Any woman who could not prove her a , b , or c status was liable to arrest and deportation.

The Observer

Soon after permits were issued to women in the Western Cape, local officials began to enforce the regulations throughout the Union. Reaction to the new system was swift and hostile. Even before the Western Cape was designated a "Coloured preference area", Africans were preparing for the inevitable. On January 4, , hundreds of African men and women assembled in the Langa township outside Cape Town to protest the impending application of the Native Laws Amendment Act.

We, women, will never carry these passes. Who will look after our children when we go to jail for a small technical offence -- not having a pass? We, the women of South Africa, wives and mothers, working women and housewives, African, Indians, European and Coloured, hereby declare our aim of striving for the removal of all laws, regulations, conventions and customs that discriminate against us as women, and that deprive us in any way of our inherent right to the advantages, responsibilities and opportunities that society offers to any one section of the population. We women do not form a society separate from the men.

There is only one society, and it is made up of both women and men. As women we share the problems and anxieties of our men, and join hands with them to remove social evils and obstacles to progress. The level of civilisation which any society has reached can be measured by the degree of freedom that its members enjoy.

The status of women is a test of civilisation. Measured by that standard, South Africa must be considered low in the scale of civilised nations. We women share with our menfolk the cares and anxieties imposed by poverty and its evils. As wives and mothers, it falls upon us to make small wages stretch a long way. It is we who feel the cries of our children when they are hungry and sick. It is our lot to keep and care for the homes that are too small, broken and dirty to be kept clean.

We know the burden of looking after children and land when our husbands are away in the mines, on the farms, and in the towns earning our daily bread. We know what it is to keep family life going in pondokkies and shanties, or in overcrowded one-room apartments. We know the bitterness of children taken to lawless ways, of daughters becoming unmarried mothers whilst still at school, of boys and girls growing up without education, training or jobs at a living wage.

These are evils that need not exist. They exist because the society in which we live is divided into poor and rich, into non-European and European. They exist because there are privileges for the few, discrimination and harsh treatment for the many. We women have stood and will stand shoulder to shoulder with our menfolk in a common struggle against poverty, race and class discrimination, and the evils of the colourbar. As members of the National Liberatory movements and Trade Unions, in and through our various organisations, we march forward with our men in the struggle for liberation and the defence of the working people.

We pledge ourselves to keep high the banner of equality, fraternity and liberty. As women there rests upon us also the burden of removing from our society all the social differences developed in past times between men and women, which have the effect of keeping our sex in a position of inferiority and subordination. We resolve to struggle for the removal of laws and customs that deny African women the right to own, inherit or alienate property. We resolve to work for a change in the laws of marriage such as are found amongst our African, Malay and Indian people, which have the effect of placing wives in the position of legal subjection to husbands, and giving husbands the power to dispose of wives' property and earnings, and dictate to them in all matters affecting them and their children.

We recognise that the women are treated as minors by these marriage and property laws because of ancient and revered traditions and customs which had their origin in the antiquity of the people and no doubt served purposes of great value in bygone times. There was a time in the African society when every woman reaching marriageable stage was assured of a husband, home, land and security. Then husbands and wives with their children belonged to families and clans that supplied most of their own material needs and were largely self-sufficient.

Men and women were partners in a compact and closely integrated family unit. Those conditions have gone. The tribal and kinship society to which they belonged has been destroyed as a result of the loss of tribal land, migration of men away from the tribal home, the growth of towns and industries, and the rise of a great body of wage-earners on the farms and in the urban areas, who depend wholly or mainly on wages for a livelihood. Thousands of African women, like Indians, Coloured and European women, are employed today in factories, homes, offices, shops, on farms, in professions as nurses, teachers and the like.

As unmarried women, widows or divorcees they have to fend for themselves, often without the assistance of a male relative. Many of them are responsible not only for their own livelihood but also that of their children. Nevertheless, the laws and practices derived from an earlier and different state of society are still applied to them. They are responsible for their own person and their children. Yet the law seeks to enforce upon them the status of a minor. Not only are African, Coloured and Indian women denied political rights, but they are also in many parts of the Union denied the same status as men in such matters as the right to enter into contracts, to own and dispose of property, and to exercise guardianship over their children.

The law has lagged behind the development of society; it no longer corresponds to the actual social and economic position of women. The law has become an obstacle to progress of the women, and therefore a brake on the whole of society. This intolerable condition would not be allowed to continue were it not for the refusal of a large section of our menfolk to concede to us women the rights and privileges which they demand for themselves.

We shall teach the men that they cannot hope to liberate themselves from the evils of discrimination and prejudice as long as they fail to extend to women complete and unqualified equality in law and in practice. We also recognise that large numbers of our womenfolk continue to be bound by traditional practices and conventions, and fail to realise that these have become obsolete and a brake on progress.

It is our duty and privilege to enlist all women in our struggle for emancipation and to bring to them all realisation of the intimate relationship that exists between their status of inferiority as women and the inferior status to which their people are subjected by discriminatory laws and colour prejudices. It is our intention to carry out a nation-wide programme of education that will bring home to the men and women of all national groups the realisation that freedom cannot be won for any one section or for the people as a whole as long as we women are kept in bondage.

We women appeal to all progressive organisations, to members of the great National Liberatory movements, to the trade unions and working class organisations, to the churches, educational and welfare organisations, to all progressive men and women who have the interests of the people at heart, to join with us in this great and noble endeavour. This organisation is formed for the purpose of uniting women in common action for the removal of all political, legal, economic and social disabilities.

We shall strive for women to obtain:. In the year, , four young oral historians interviewed fourteen women who participated in the March. Here are extracts from three interviews. I'm facing the bull with its horns? I'm Black when I feel to be. What will I have done for the nation, yes? DM: Yes, we all converged, other people from other centres, Johannesburg. They were coming by trains and thing like that Springs, East Rand and things like that… In fact old people; older people were given lifts by the patronage from Johannesburg and other countries.

But we were a big force. Also from Lady Selbourne. We had a very big force to join the others. We met somewhere in town there … Did we meet at Boom Street? Boom and Andries but not very far from the hospital there that. DM: laughter We because now, really, we had never carried passes. We were all enthusiastic to get there and see this Boer bass and tell him that we are not going to carry those things.

Yes she was young lady…. We had so many things to talk about really. As I say, in fact we wanted to see whether were these were we gong to be arrested, or where would they find a prison to fill up this entire mob. You see that was the big idea o a bona [you see] if they arrest one we all walk in and no turning back. We are all just there for …. So instead, really they gave us a way out.

Nobody was arrested on that day. Q: Can you explain a little bit about the March, how it was organized, how did you organize the women, where did you get transport money to Pretoria? CM: We use to convene meetings now and then at Mzimhlophe. Many people organized at their own branches. We were using trains for transport, to Pretoria. We walked to the Union Building we sat in the garden. Our leaders went inside the building to submit memorandum to Strijdom but they did not find him.

There was no one to receive and read the memorandum. Our leaders called us into the courtyard. RM: I can say I was happy to work with different people but the people I have enjoyed most were the Indians. I have many friends in India. People like Amina Cachalia were there. MT: We also worked very closely with people like Lilian Ngoyi and many more. During the march we were together with Ma-Moeketsi and others. I was always with Ma-Moeketsi. RM: I am the one who was the member of that organization. I was working with many white women in this organization. We use to attend meetings in Johannesburg.

RM: No, we had our children on our backs during the March. Many women had their children with them during the March. Some were carrying the white children with them, those who were working for whites. MT: We were singing the song, which says 'Verwoerd, the black people will kill you and we do not want Bantu Education' "Verwoerd, batho ba bantsho ba tlo go bolaya and gape ga re batle Bantu Education. And the song was saying: 'If you strike a woman, you strike a rock' 'Wathint'aBafazi, waThint'iMbokodo'.

Yona ere: "Pele re aya Pretoria, pele re aya Pretoria". Who knows better than any African woman what it means to have a husband who must carry a pass? The women know that:. No woman is fooled by the "Reference Book. If a woman is found without this book or if all the papers inside are not in order, she will be pushed into the Kwela-Kwela and taken to gaol. Her children will be left motherless. The Government has tried to make women carry passes for many years and each time the women have given their answer.

By standing united, protesting with one voice and organising all areas around this wicked law, the women are trying to achieve the abolition of the pass law system with its vicious attack on their liberty. Women of South Africa will always oppose the carrying of passes.

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With all our strength we must fight against this attack on ourselves, our mothers, sisters, children and families. Printed by Pioneer Press pty. Sharpeville Massacre. Running from the violence after police open fire on the protesters. October As the s gave way to the s the ANC and PAC both announced plans to tackle the pass laws for blacks both men and women with massive protests, civil disobedience and pass burnings.

There was a sense of rivalry between the two organisations to get their campaigns off the ground first. Suddenly the country was rocked by the events of 21 March in Sharpeville where people had gathered to show the police that they did not have their passes — and thus to invite arrest. In the general confusion and escalating tension of the situation, police shot and killed 69 people. World headlines condemned this callous example of unwarranted police repression against unarmed Africans.

Predictably, and almost immediately, there was a government crackdown of all black opposition. At a single stroke the national liberation movement was stopped temporarily, at least in its tracks and the Congress Alliance was plunged into disarray. The government declared a state of emergency, hundreds of arrests were made and in April the ANC and newly-formed PAC were banned as lawful political parties. Both organizations were driven underground.

By mid Congress leaders had come to the realization that non-violent methods of resistance had failed and would have to be abandoned; the ANC and PAC both established military wings - Umkhonto we Sizwe and Poqo respectively. The new strategy was to turn to violence, to try to harm the economy and to gain publicity for the fact that the ANC was still a viable organization despite being banned.

It had been conceived on the s model of resistance and it was doomed to flounder in the s. It had not been banned but its ally, the ANC, had been driven underground. The immediate goal was to try to regroup. Its most prominent female leaders, Ngoyi and Joseph, had been detained.

In early it was decided that regional organisers should try to manage resistance at the ground level. In she organised anti-government demonstrations among rural women during the Natal Women's Revolt. Ngoyi was upbeat in her report and her reminder that freedom was not easily won. But bad times were near at hand.

In October Ngoyi was banned and confined to Orlando for 5 years. Florence Matomela of the eastern Cape section suffered a similar fate. And in early there was worse to come. Helen Joseph's banning order expired but she was served another within a few months, becoming the first person to be confined to house arrest.

With the loss of its three main leaders there was no chance of revival. In the Congress of Democrats COD was banned which was another blow for many politically active women. In the next few years more of the leading women were removed from office in the organisation by government orders and arrests.

In Ray Alexander went into exile in Zambia. By the mids the FSAW had declined into obscurity. But the spirit of women's resistance had not been destroyed. It was black students who took the initiative. They were angered by a snub from the white student body and formed their own organisation, the South African Students' Organisation SASO led by Steve Biko, through which they planned to formulate their own political ideas and strategies.

History of Women’s struggle in South Africa

The Black Consciousness ideology is not the issue here, so suffice it to say that its adherents rejected white partnership and sought to emphasise and promote black self-esteem and assertiveness. The movement came to prominence in the s, but the first significant group to identify with Black Consciousness principles was SASO, and it held its first conference in These black students were studying under very difficult circumstances in university campuses and it is unlikely, although not impossible, that there were many women students among them.

Certainly Mamphela Ramphele began her medical studies at the University of Natal in where Steve Biko began his in and it was here that she met and fell in love with Biko, who became the leader of the Black Consciousness Movement. She too was a member of SASO and shared his political convictions. In the s a women's organization inspired by the Black Consciousness Movement, the Black Women's Federation, was formed in Amina Cachalia. In the early s the government set up the Indian National Council NIC supposedly to act as a link between the minister of Indian Affairs and the Asian community and to make recommendations to the minister.

In the late s and the s many Indian families had suffered great hardship under the Group Areas Act. Indians were forcibly made to move from their homes to make way for white development in Natal. Appeals to the authorities met with stubborn indifference. In an effort to show their resistance to these two discriminatory measures Indian women activists staged a march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in October Zainab Asvat, who had been so prominent in the Indian passive resistance campaign of , was the main organiser of the march.

Most of the women were from Johannesburg and Pretoria. Unlike the previous marches to the Union Buildings, on this march the women were subjected to violence. The police turned dogs on them and baton charged them. Soon after this, Zainab was banned for five years. After her banning expired, she and her husband Dr Kazi, who had also been banned, took exit permits and went to live in London. Zainab Asvat was by no means the only Indian woman who had a high political profile at the time. And in Phyllis Naidoo was banned and detained for ten days for breaking her banning order.

Soon afterwards she left South Africa for Lesotho, where she subsequently became the victim of a parcel bomb. During the s, and particularly in the late s after the Soweto uprising of , there was increasing pressure, both internal and international, on the apartheid state. The riots also played an important role in the revival of the ANC and the PAC, both of which had been banned in and were operating underground. The government had to cope with economic sanctions, military pressure from Cuba and the countries of the Eastern Bloc and diplomatic estrangement from overseas.

In this heightened resistance against the state women once again played an important role not only within South Africa but as part of the banned ANC operating from outside the country's borders. After her release from detention she joined Umkhonto we Sizwe, underwent military training and later specialised in Intelligence. Steve Biko was the Black Conscience leader, political activist and student leader.

A year after the formation of the federation, Fatima Meer was banned. The government also banned a meeting that was to be held by the federation and other anti-apartheid organisations in Durban in protest of Meer's banning. When Biko died in while being held in detention, a storm of protest arose in the country and there was also increased international condemnation of the regime. All the black consciousness organisations were banned in , including the women's organisations.

The National Indian Council set up by the government in the s had been scorned by prominent Indian leaders although it continued to function or some years. The Soweto riots of had prompted Vorster to make some limited concessions to the political position of Coloureds and Indians. Once again there was only limited support for the idea, most Indians expressing the feeling that universal franchise in a unitary state is what they were holding out for. Progressive Indians, among them women such as Amina Cachalia, Fatima Meer and Ela Gandhi who had been elected as vice-president of the revived Natal Indian Congress were opposed to this new form of apartheid and anti-SAIC committees were formed to resist the measure.

In the s the country's industrial economy had matured and by the s black workers were becoming increasingly restless about exploitative working conditions. A number of strikes were held particularly in Natal in and between and many new trade unions were formed. Women such as Linda Komape and Emma Mashinini were prominent in trade unionism, fighting for the rights of women in the workplace. By the effects of worldwide criticism and withdrawal of foreign capital led to an economic recession.

To counteract widespread worker dissatisfaction Vorster appointed two commissions of enquiry in the Wiehahn and the Riekert Commissions. Wiehahn recommended that black trade unions should be legalised and that certain forms of job reservation should be scrapped. Riekert made a number of suggestions on allowing urbanised black workers residential rights. Between and , as result of the legalisation of black trade unions, unionisation of black workers doubled. Black trade unionism was set to become a powerful force in South African politics, which is still the case in South Africa today.

Women from the Crossroads squatter camp demonstrate outside parliament demanding protection from Witdoek white headband vigilantes for the right to rebuild their bent-out hopes. Cape Town. June The s saw escalating state repression and mass detentions. In a frenzy of desperate reaction, the government declared a series of back-to-back states of emergency from to In PW Botha made a desperate effort to make reforms by introducing the tricameral constitution: three parliaments were set up, one each for whites, Coloureds and Indians. But this was widely rejected by the Coloured and Indian people and seemed doomed to fail from its very inception.

Press freedom was restricted; there was turmoil everywhere and South Africa had in effect become a police state. When Botha suffered a stroke in and FW de Klerk took over it had become abundantly clear that a process of reform had to begin. He released a group of prominent political prisoners, including Walter Sisulu and began to consult with them. Throughout the s women were again at the forefront of the struggle. Prominent female activists like Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi continued to leave the country and go into exile.

She then enlisted in Umkhonto we Sizwe receiving her training in Angola. A UDF Protest sticker. The organisation took up campaigns such as child care, the bread price and bus fare increases. Other branches dealt with housing campaigns and launched rent boycotts and also defended children against police brutality. About delegates from more than organisations and a crowd of about 13 people converged on the area. There were delegates representing students, youth, worker, civic, women's, religious, sport and trade union organisations.

The gathering was the biggest crowd of anti-apartheid groupings since the mass meetings of the Congress Alliance in the s. The initial aim of the UDF was to oppose the nationalist government's tricameral parliamentary proposals but in a short time it became the leading anti apartheid political movement within the country, with more than 1,5 million supporters. It mobilised nationwide resistance, led a series of boycotts, and became involved in labour issues. While the UDF was non-aligned, most of its leadership and affiliates were either members of the underground ANC or sympathetic to it.

Soon afterwards, the UDF was disbanded. From as early as women from Durban had been coming together on an annual basis to commemorate August 9th. The organizers of those events discussed the need for an ongoing programme that would unite women and deal with women's issues. In December NOW was formed. The first president was Pumzile Mlambo later to become South Africa's first female deputy president while Hersheela Narsee was secretary.

The following year Nozizwe Madlala took over as president and Victoria Mxenge was elected as secretary. The main aim of NOW was to fight for the upliftment of women and therefore a constitution that would safeguard women's rights was formulated. Women were trained and encouraged to take up leadership positions in various fields. NOW also campaigned for better housing at rates that were affordable, and was concerned with pass laws, the lack of proper maternity benefits and child-care.

The establishment of NOW was a major factor in the increased role of women in political and civic organizations and in the establishment of the rights of women in the struggle and all spheres of society. With the declaration of the State of Emergency, and the mass detentions and restrictions on the UDF that followed, NOW activists found themselves filling the leadership vacuum in Natal and spearheaded a number of UDF campaigns that the UDF itself could not carry out. Kolison: The inheritance of pain. Kim: Checking in during shelter in place. Wilson: Policy and documentation must pave the campaign trail.

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