26 July 2017

On the shoulders of giants: Strong Women

This Women's month we pay tribute to our grandmothers, mothers and sisters - women from all walks of life who are being heralded as heroines for the sacrifices that they have made and continue to make towards bettering our society.

Six months ago as I walked up the stairs and made my way into the entrance of the Former Women's Jail Section at Constitution Hill, the significance and history of the place was not lost on me. It was in this very building that women were consistently dehumanized and kept away from their loved ones. Today we conduct business in this space and every now and then are reminded by the tour guides of the shameful past that used to house these walls lest we forget.

It is fitting that our staff consists of predominantly women in that the women who were detained in the building where we now work paved the way for us. It is on their shoulders that we stand and have the confidence to carry out our work. We are often led to believe that a woman ought to be meek and subdued yet society has shaped our collective experiences to manifest the opposite of this. This month we honour the women detainees who were subjected to vile prison conditions. It is worth mentioning that black women were subjected to abominable conditions in comparison to their white counterparts. The lack of dignity that was afforded to these women speaks volumes to the nature of the human condition and the will to carry on in the midst of troubles. Despite these poor conditions the Fatima Meers, Winnie Mandelas, Maggie Reshas and Dorothy Nyembes fought for their rights so that we too may enjoy the fruits of their labour.Womens' Day

We salute these women and give thanks to them. Theirs is a legacy of tenacity and hope in the face of much strife.