20 August 2015

Women of Truth: Profiling women in the TRC


“We formed the first black women’s organisation with women like Fatima and all the women all over and it was a very powerful group, that black women’s organization" - Joyce Seroke

Name: Joyce Piliso-Seroke

Known for: Political and women’s rights activist, former detainee, a member of the TRC’s Human Rights Violations committee and First Chairperson of the Commission for Gender Equality.

Date of Birth: 11 July 1933

Birth Place: Johannesburg, Crown Mines

Education Background: Matriculated at Kilnerton High School in Pretoria. She holds a BA degree, diploma in Communication, University Education Diploma at the University of Fort Hare. She gave up teaching to pursue Social work. She did her postgraduate in Social Policy and Administration in Swansea, South Wales.

Career Trail: She worked for the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in Natal where she was appointed national secretary, enabling her to speak about the brutality and destruction of apartheid in South Africa at  international Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA)conferences in Africa, Europe and the United States.

Her role in the TRC: As a member of the Human Rights Violations Committee in 1996. Her role was to ensure that victims voices are recognized; she dedicated her time to the commission to ascertain that truth about the dark days of South Africa are brought into light for South Africans’ to heal and that  supported within their communities and by the commission.

The women always come there talking about what happened to their sons, to their husbands. They hardly tell us about what has happened and yet when you probe deeper you also find that they also experienced violations and some of them more terrible than some of the people they have come to talk about. But I’m always so struck by their bravery and the fact that for all these years they managed to keep all these stories to themselves.” - Joyce Seroke

Poster of women's contribution to end apartheid. women's role in the struggle

Her Achievements:  She was appointed the first chairperson of the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) in 1999 and was reappointed in October 2002. She is also a member of the Eskom Development Foundation.

Joyce Seroke is the symbol of strength and courage to many South African women and we salute her for her contribution toward South Africa’s freedom and the continuous struggle for gender equality.

See other posters on the women's contributions to the fight against repression. 

Visit SAHA's Online exhibition: "Women hold up half the sky" commemorating women's contribution in the struggle against Human Rights violations.

Visit the SABC/SAHA TRC Special Report programme to see Joyce Seroke's profile.

Visit the SABC/SAHA website to see the 85 parts series of the TRC Special Report programme

Visit the SAHA / Sunday Times Heritage Project site to learn more about Lilian Ngoyi, Cissie Gool, Bessie Head, Ingrid Jonker and others

Visit the Voices from our Past publication page to download a radio documentary on the Women's March