How emulating Charlotte Maxeke challenges the status quo

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Charlotte Maxeke
Charlotte Maxeke


Change in societal circumstances is often a direct result of the efforts of courageous individuals who dare to challenge adversity and anomalies.

From one generation to the other, the structural boundaries in society have shifted as a result of the efforts of such courageous individuals. Men and women of courage arose to challenge the world and effect positive change in society.

In marking International Women’s Day, we are once again called on to dare to challenge the world and contribute to building an equal society that is founded on human rights.

Society is called on to emulate trailblazers such as Mama Charlotte Maxeke, whose lives are characterised by the will to confront prevailing anomalies and contribute to the empowerment of women and the African majority.

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This year’s theme for International Women’s Day – Choose To Challenge – appropriately embodies the character of people such as Mama Maxeke, and effectively calls all of us to rise and drive change in society.

In her lifetime, Mama Maxeke confronted multiple forms of oppression, rose above her circumstances and appropriately earned the title of “mother of black freedom”.

From being the first woman to graduate with a university degree to being a leading proponent of indigenous languages and leading the creation of an employment agency for Africans, Mama Maxeke showed that she was dynamic in character and was always willing to stretch societal boundaries.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges faced by South Africans. Many of our people lost their jobs and poverty lines are more visible.

While government intervened through social and economic relief measures, our reality today calls for us to emulate the dynamic character of Mama Maxeke to adopt the call for all of us to challenge the world and find solutions for prevailing circumstances.

President Cyril Ramaphosa presented a plan for economic reconstruction and recovery which requires that we draw from our collective virtuosity to build lasting solutions and improve our country’s competitiveness. The plan will benefit from the courage and participation of all stakeholders and individuals.

READ: Economic inclusion for women and youth: Budget 2021 and beyond

We have a chance now to reconstruct an economy that is inclusive, meaning more women should find space in the mainstream economy and help in the recovery process.

Government has already committed to allocating 40% of its procurement spend to women to facilitate an inclusive economy.

Kill that spirit of self and do not live above your people
Charlotte Maxeke

Historical evidence shows that when women are empowered, change prevails in society. When Mama Maxeke graduated with a university degree, she inspired generations of women to become educated and self-reliant. Often, women’s rights are compromised because they are reliant on their abusers. Society has to challenge this anomaly and facilitate the integration of women into the mainstream economy.

It is in our best interest to heed Mama Maxeke’s timeless counsel: “This work is not for yourselves. Kill that spirit of self and do not live above your people, but live with them. If you can rise, bring someone with you.”

Siweya is deputy minister in the presidency


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