Women Who Democratized South Africa

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“Women played a critical role in democratizing our nation”. It is often overlooked that women played a very important role in the struggle against apartheid. Today when we think of the leaders of the struggle we tend to think about Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Albert Luthuli and other prominent men. It is not often that people remember to look at not only the wives of some of these men, but also other women who got deeply involved in fighting apartheid. Black women faced three forms of oppression in South Africa during apartheid - racial, social and sexual. For this reason they had more to struggle against. Although many women helped fight for freedom during apartheid, two names stand out as heroines of the struggle, Albertina Sisulu and Helen Joseph. Albertina Sisulu, the wife of Walter Sisulu, was a political activist during apartheid that not only fought for the freedom of the people, but also for the rights of black women. In 1955 she joined the ANC Women’s League and also aided the launch of the freedom charter. Albertina Sisulu had five children and adopted her deceased sister-in-law's two children, supporting her family on her earnings as a nurse. She also became a major political figure in her own right getting herself arrested, banned, and imprisoned. She helped form the Federation of South African Women and became its president. On August the 9th 1956 she led huge demonstrations against the extension of the hated pass laws to women and against the introduction of the Bantu education system. Her opposition to women's passes brought her first jail sentence in 1958 with Winnie Mandela and others female liberators. Albertina Sisulu was arrested after Walter Sisulu went underground in 1963. Her arrestment resulted in her becoming the first female to be arrested under the General Laws Act. Her political acts frequently resulted in her being in and out of jail, but this did not put fear into her heart as she remained courageous and continued...
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