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Women resist triple oppression

Black women are chained by a triple yoke of oppression. Under apartheid, each component of their existence as women - their sex, their colour and their class - combine to negate their right to social inequality. Within the rascist and sexist system, women are not only oppressed in relation to men, but in relation to each other. 

- Systematic oppression - Unyielding Resistance, date unknown. 

We have already seen how black women were discriminated against because of their race and gender.  

However black women also faced oppression and discrimination in the workplace. This became known as the triple oppression of women, where they experienced oppression on three counts. 

As the trade union movement emerged and developed from the late 1970s onwards, women workers were encouraged to join the unions. With the formation of COSATU in 1985, women workers took up the political struggle as well as the struggle for improved working and living conditions.

The trade union movement encouraged unity in the workplace. They emphasised workers' common exploitation by the bosses and encouraged women to take up activist positions such as shop stewards and union organisers.

Despite this, women in the trade union movement and on the factory floor were discriminated against because they were women.

  • very few women occupied leadership positions within the unions, and meetings were largely dominated by men.
  • Many women felt that they were not taken seriously because they were women.
  • Some women experienced sexual harassment by men within the union movement.

Exhibitions in the classroom

Reading the past 

SOURCE: Extract from FEDSAW poster on the emancipation of women, date unknown.

Read the text and answer the questions.

1. What does the author of this inscription mean by “the liberation of women is a fundamental necessity of the revolution.”?

2. What steps could you take to help build a society that is free of gender and racial discrimination?




NEXT: Mother, women: the revolution is you

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