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ANC Centenary Seminar looks at the role of women in the liberation struggle
2012-03-22

 

At the ANC Centenary Seminar were, from the left: Nadine Lake, ProgrammeDirector: Gender Studies, at the UFS; Prof. Hassim; Zubeida Jaffer, Writer-in-Residence at the UFS; and Senovia Welman from the UFS-Sasol Library.
Photo: Amanda Tongha
22 March 2012


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Looking back at the history of South African politics you will always find women involved in that history.”

This is according to Prof. Shireen Hassim, a professor in Political Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, who recently spoke at an ANC Centenary Seminar, held on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS). The seminar is part of a series of dialogues hosted by the Centre for Africa Studies about the ruling party’s 100 years of existence. It was the first one to be held following the 100 year celebrations of the ANC in January 2012 and was dedicated to the ANC Women’s League. Prof. Hassim told the audience that from early roles as wives who provided catering and entertainment, women have always been politically active in the African National Congress (ANC).

Women took the lead in the defiance campaign, going beyond the role of tea lady of the 1910s. When the ANC went into exile, the women’s section, as it was called then, played an important role.” Prof. Hassim also praised independent women’s organisations for the role they had played during the struggle and added that they were part of the collective history.

Talking about today’s Women’s League, Prof. Hassim said there had been debate about its current role with some critics labelling the league conservative. “In recent years, they have become very allied to internal battles.”

According to Prof. Hassim, a new language was needed that could give voice to the policies that needed to be developed.She drew attention to the plight of rural women, saying that thus far urban women have been taking the lead in defining issues. She warned that legislation like the Traditional Courts Bill would put rural women at a disadvantage. Prof. Hassim said the Bill was not rigorously debated, despite the high number of women in Parliament.

 

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