Women have always played major role

2015-08-26 06:00
Qondile Khedama
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Qondile Khedama Foto:

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WOMEN have always been an essential part of our social fibre and played a major role in the life and success of most prominent leaders.

Historical material has demonstrated that there are a lot of women who have in one way or another contributed immensely in changing the political landscape in South Africa, either through their philanthropic work, skills or political activism.

There are names in the history of the struggle of women that are downplayed, and yet have been central in improving lives in their communities. Some of these women never participated in organised political structures, but their roles can be traced through their activism in their respective communities.

Women like Krotoa “Eva” and Nokuthela Dube – first wife to the first president of the African National Congress, are but some examples of these women.

Krotoa, who was later named Eva, was born in 1642 in the Cape.

Around the age of 12, she was adopted by Jan Van Riebeeck shortly after his arrival in South Africa.

She later became one of the best interpreters of Dutch and Portuguese, also participating in the trade industry of the time.

Krotoa is recognised as the first Khoi to marry into the Christian religion.

She also broke racial barriers of the time by marrying a Danish man, who died in 1667.

Before she died on 29 July 1674, Krotoa had battled with alcoholism, and was banished to Robben Island on various occasions.

Eva embodied exploration of identity and how individuals/human beings react to the clash of cultures.

The story of Krotoa reflects the history of slavery and oppression in South Africa that continues to exist despite political advances.

Against the marginalisation and silencing of women, aspirant Nokuthela Linderely Dube was one of the first black women to qualify as a teacher. She was the author of the first Zulu songbook and wife to John Langalibalele.

Her memory has been buried in history.

Born in 1873 in Inanda (KwaZulu-Natal), Nokutela Mdima was educated at the Inanda Seminary.

A scholar, musician, an educator and leader of women’s groups, Nokuthela Dube co-founded the Ohlange Institute, Ilanga LaseNatal and co-authored the first Zulu songbook.

Her teachings on education, self-reliance, music and domestic science blended well with her life of a pioneer African leader.

She eventually died in 1917, was buried in an unmarked grave in Johannesburg where she was virtually forgotten until recent efforts largely initiated by the work of Prof. Cherif Keita, a Malian-born scholar working and living in America, brought her name to the fore once again.

She is one of the women who represented the first generation of African women who pioneered women’s struggle against cultural, racial and political oppression.

Her opposition to forms of oppression was a result of being raised in the church and growing up at a mission station.

The current crop of women leadership has a responsibility, amongst others to engage on gender dynamics.

Research does show that gender stereotypes still exist in most societies.

We need to bring forth lessons gleaned from the legacies of these women.

There is a need for a culture of gender equality to be fully inculcated at all levels of society.

A democratic government presents a conducive environment for South Africa’s women to reflect and to advance the struggle as waged by these gallants of women’s struggle.

) Qondile Khedama is a communications practitioner and social commentator and is currently the Mangaung metro’s head of communications. He writes in his personal capacity

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