Anti-Apartheid Activism: How Powerful Protest Against Black Oppression Was Carried Out By Women

Anti- Apartheid Activism: How Powerful Protest Against Black Oppression Was Carried Out By Women

Black oppression and negligence are two things in the world today that would not come as a shock to a lot of people, as over the years, right from the time of the 13th century, blacks have always been seen and referred to as being inferior or animals, and they have been oppressed, downplayed, neglected, restricted, and treated badly by whites.

It’ s no news that there was a time when whites had supreme power over blacks, even in their own land. South Africa, just like several other countries, happened to be one country that had its own fair share of white supreme power, to the point where the women decided to get up and go on an activist movement to campaign and change things.

What Was Apartheid About?

Apartheid was a dreadful and brutal period in South African history. It is believed to be a time when the ethnonationalist Afrikaner National Party dominated the country with authoritarian white supremacy.

During this period, there was a clear racial hierarchy that was quite clear and strong in South Africa, which placed blacks at the bottom and whites at the top. Despite the fact that apartheid began in 1948, this racial hierarchy, as well as subsequent segregation and oppression, existed prior to that time (and its effects are still present up to today).

When Did Apartheid Begin?

The period of Apartheid was said to have begun with the invasion of the African continent by white people. Commencing in the year 1652, the Dutch established colonies in South Africa, and in 1806 the British took over the Cape Colony from the Dutch.

Following that, in 1910, the Cape Colony, the Natal Colony, the Transvaal Colony, and the Orange River Colony, as well as the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, established the Union of South Africa. The Union’ s care was entrusted to Namibia (German South- West Africa).

It didn’ t take long until the Union became a self- governing dominion totally controlled by the British Empire, which was also similar to Canada or Australia. The Europeans, as in Canada and Australia, were in authority, trampling on the indigenous peoples.

The National Party, which initially came to power in 1924 and again in 1948, began imposing apartheid by tightening and introducing additional racially discriminatory laws, such as pass laws and land acts, to achieve the desired effect.

When the subject of anti- apartheid activism is brought up, it is almost always in the context of male activists alone, ignoring the importance of female activists. Women in South Africa, who endured both racial and gender discrimination and were system challengers and main drivers of anti- apartheid protests, take, for example, black women.

They were at the bottom of the racial hierarchy because they were black. They were subjected to all of South Africa’ s anti- black laws. Pass laws were among them. They were, however, only dependents since they were women. As a result, their freedom of movement was severely limited compared to that of black African men. A black South African woman’ s employment search was made even more difficult, and they were at risk of being deported to rural areas.

The Formation Of Unions By Women

According to history, South African black women were recorded as organizing trade unions in the 1920s, particularly in the laundry, garment, mattress, furniture, and baking industries (the South African Trades Union Council was strictly for white workers). The Federation of Non- European Trade Unions (FNEU) was founded in 1928 with the backing of the South African Communist Party (SACP), and it had approximately 15, 000 members at the time. It was successful until the Great Depression of 1930– 33, when it separated the SACP over a ” black republic. “

The African National Congress (ANC) Women’ s League was founded by Dr Charlotte Maxeke in 1918. (The ANC did not accept female members until 1943. ) The Women’ s League was created to combat pass laws; they demanded that the laws be repealed, and when their request was denied, they burned their passes in front of municipal offices and were arrestem

The league was involved in the ANC’ s Defiance Campaign, which has been described as ” the first large- scale, multi- racial political mobilization against apartheid legislation under a single leadership. “

Protests against the Sharpeville Massacre included the burning of passes (a commonly known thing at that time), which Nelson Mandela famously did on March 26, 1960. In Port Elizabeth, women led the defiance campaign.

The founder of the United Democratic Front, ” Nosipho Dastile” , the founding member of the Federation of South African Women, Lilian Diedricks (who was famous for marching against pass laws in 1956 and was imprisoned for 6 years at the age of 24 for her activism), Florence Matomela (provincial organiser of the African National Congress Women’ s League and vice- president of the Federation of South African Women), and Veronica Sobukwe were among the women (nurse and labour activist).

Mass Demonstrations Are Banned

The Pan African Congress (PAC) gathering, estimated to be between 3000 and 20, 000 people, called for large protests at Sharpeville Township in 1960. Approximately 300 police officers opened fire on the gathering, killing 69 people and wounding another 186.

The massacre’ s victims were all black, and the majority were shot in the back while fleeing. Following the massacre, a crackdown ensued, with 18, 000 individuals detained, including members of the Women’ s League. Following their demonstration, the Women’ s League, along with the ANC and the PAC, were all banned.

Winnie Madikizela- Mandela was the head of the women’ s league, a member of the ANC’ s National Executive Committee, and a frequent detainee. She was savagely beaten by the cops, and she developed a dependency on pills to treat her back injuries as a result of the assault. She was affectionately referred to as the ” mother of the country. “

The Federation of South African Women, which was founded in 1954, was a lobbying organization. Lilian Ngoyi was the driving force behind it, and its inaugural convention established a women’ s charter. The group’ s main goals were to campaign for majority rule and to eliminate apartheid policies, as well as to create a multiracial women’ s organization that would also advocate for women’ s rights and liberties.

They pushed for a boycott of government- run schools in 1954. In 1963, it was declared illegal. The Black Women’ s Federation was founded in December 1975. Unlike the Federation of South African Women, it focused on issues affecting black women and worked in both rural and urban regions.

Women yet again advocated for and organized bus boycotts in 1957, when bus fares to townships were increased. Over 25, 000 black Africans lived in the townships. In just three weeks, 20, 000 other black Africans had joined them in their protest.

As a result, the government launched a wave of raids, resulting in the arrest of 6, 606 Africans and the subpoenaing of another 7, 860. Two police baton charges were reported to have been used against a 5, 000- person gathering in Lady Shelburne, injuring 17 Africans. The government has announced laws that will put an end to bus service to African cities permanently. The demonstrations, though, went on. The bus fare increase was dropped after five months.

The Rise Of Steve Biko

In the 1970s, a medical student named Steven Biko sprung from the blues and diligently led the Black Consciousness Movement, which was also believed to have been inspired by America’ s Black Power Movement. The movement emphasized psychological freedom, black pride, and nonviolent resistance to apartheid. Biko further led the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO), which was founded in 1969 because the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) was primarily made up of white students and battled for them.

Biko’ s life was, however, cut short. Aside from Biko, who was the most well- known man during this time, women played an important role in both the Black Consciousness Movement and the SASO.

To combat the erosion of Afrikaans among black Africans, a decree was passed in 1974 mandating that English and Afrikaans be used 50: 50 in schools. Even with that, Afrikaans still remained the oppressor’ s language, according to Desmond Tutu. Children at Orlando West Junior School in Soweto refused to go to school in 1976, as resentment increased.

The strike spread to other Soweto schools. Tsietsie Mashinini, a Morris Isaacson High School student, proposed the meeting that would lead to the founding of the Action Committee and the peaceful mass demonstration on June 16, 1976. ‘ ‘ The demonstration was also in support of equal treatment for black and white students in schools. Tsietsie was in charge of his school’ s students. An estimated 20, 000 children demonstrated and were confronted with violence.

” Then a white police officer grabbed his revolver and fired a single shot at the unarmed teenagers who were singing. Hector Petersen, the uprising’ s first victim, died in front of his friends. After that, other officers opened fire. The kids, many of whom were little girls aged ten to twelve, were taken aback at first and remained stunned, staring at the bodies of the dead and wounded. Their hatred and fury then burst forth.

They advanced towards the police lines, picking up stones, bricks, and any other missiles they could get their hands on, and flinging them at the officers. ” What concerned me more than anything was the attitude of the youngsters, ” one journalist said. Many people appeared to be completely naive to the risk. Despite this, they continued to sprint towards the police, dodging and ducking.

As a show of force, 1500 highly armed police and the army were deployed in Soweto the next day. On the first day, between 23 and 100 individuals were slain, with hundreds more dying the next day. Even though their contributions are often ignored in order to maintain the status quo, girls and women in South Africa have always been and continue to be a vital part of the struggle.

This period was a dark and horrible period for South Africans, and it is, however, comforting to know that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Thanks for reading.

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