Women of Parliament share their memories

2011-03-26 11:35

Animal print, bright make-up and clothes, the Navy band, handsome bodyguards, and lots and lots of beads.

It might sound like the ingredients of a wild Mardi Gras party, but these were the elements that made up Friday afternoon’s Women in Parliament celebrations at Constitution Hill, Joburg.

It was a day for walking down memory lane, with funny anecdotes and powerful messages from female parliamentarians who served in the National ­Assembly from 1994 to 1999.

The party was hosted by the Women’s Development Foundation (WDF), which honoured these women to commemorate their role in the country’s first democratic Parliament.

A wall engraved with all 168 names of the female parliamentarians was also unveiled.

The women came dressed to the nines, in obligatory kaftans and intricately tied doeks (we’re looking at you, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) and colourful traditional attire thrown in.

But none was as bright as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in an orange outfit teamed with a trendy lime-green haute bag.

Other guests included Frene Ginwala, Patricia de Lille, Suzanne Vos, Pregs Govender, Ruth Rabinowitz, Lalita Singh, Gertrude Shope, SA ambassador to Italy Thenjiwe Mtintso, SA ambassador to Bulgaria Sheila Camerer, Minister Lulama Xingwana and Thandi Ndlovu, among others.

The event started on a light note. Founder and president of the WDF Dr Brigalia Bam asked for contributions to the ­foundation. Each speaker had memories of their time as ­parliamentarians.

Vos recalled how pre-1994 there were only eight women in Parliament, and they were often patronised by their male ­counterparts.

Mtintso raised the roof with her hilarious account of MPs getting lost inside the Parliament building on their first day at work. An inspirational poem from Lebo Mashile followed, and the programme continued with networking and a seminar.
The day ended with a gala ­dinner at which the “Class of 1994” was presented with ­various awards.

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