South Africa was subject to a system of racial segregation and discrimination known as apartheid from 1950 to the early 1970s. During this period, South African women were at the forefront of civil society resistance to the oppressive regime. In this article, we will explore how women played a key role in the fight against apartheid in the 1950s and 1970s.
1950s – 1970s: South African Women in Civil Society Resistance
The 1950s and 1970s saw a surge in civil society resistance to apartheid in South Africa. Women were central to this resistance, as they had been throughout South Africa’s history. Women were active in anti-apartheid organisations such as the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Communist Party (SACP), the South African Indian Congress (SAIC), the Black Sash, and the South African Council of Churches (SACC).
Women also formed their own organisations, such as the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) and the Black Women’s Federation (BWF). These organisations focused on issues such as healthcare, education, gender equality, and the fight against apartheid. Women also took part in demonstrations, strikes, and other forms of civil disobedience to protest apartheid.
Women’s Role in Fighting Apartheid
South African women played a pivotal role in the fight against apartheid. Women were often at the forefront of civil disobedience, leading marches and boycotts against the regime. They also organised the boycotts of businesses that supported the apartheid government, and held protests to demand the release of political prisoners.
Women were also instrumental in organising relief efforts for those affected by the apartheid regime. They provided food, clothing, and medical care to those in need. Women also played a key role in the education of children, setting up underground schools to ensure that children had access to quality education.
Women also worked to raise awareness of the injustices of apartheid, both within South Africa and abroad. They wrote articles and books, and held talks and seminars to educate people about apartheid and the struggle against it.
South African women played a crucial role in the struggle against apartheid in the 1950s and 1970s. From leading protests and boycotts to running relief efforts, women were at the forefront of civil society resistance to the oppressive regime. Their courage and dedication inspired generations of South Africans to continue the fight for freedom and equality.
The role that women in South Africa played in civil society resistance from the 1950s to the 1970s was fundamental in their country’s struggle for freedom and justice. During this time, many female activists and leaders orchestrated various campaigns against apartheid, the legalized racial segregation that was enforced by the South African government. The overwhelming bravery and determination of these women are remembered and celebrated today all around the world.
One of the most significant and influential activists of South Africa was Nelson Mandela. However, the work of many other women and organizations is just as important and far-reaching in the fight against the oppressive regime. Among the most famous of these women included Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Adelaide Tambo, and Fatima Meer.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was one of the most prominent ANC campaigners in addition to being Nelson Mandela’s wife. She organized youth and women’s organizations and was instrumental in garnering both local and international media attention for the ANC.
Albertina Sisulu, an ANC Commissioner for Welfare, was known for her hospitality, strength, and determination in empowering African women through her work. She was openly critical of the South African government and risked her own safety to speak out against the injustices of the regime.
Adelaide Tambo was the founder of the African National Congress Women’s League and Fatima Meer was an anti-apartheid activist and author who wrote several books challenging the oppressive South African regime.
The women of South Africa did not limit their activism to peaceful means. The Black Sash Movement, founded by a group of white women, advocated peacefully for the end of apartheid. However, many women resorted to more militant tactics and formed organizations such as MK, the armed wing of the ANC, to help in the struggle to overthrow their oppressors.
South Africa would not have achieved the level of freedom it did without the immense contributions and sacrifices of the brave women who rallied against the oppressive regime. They gave their all in the fight for a brighter and more equitable future. Post-apartheid South Africa honors them and the role they played in civil society resistance from 1950-1970s.