5 Powerful Women Who Made An Impact in South Africa

Many African women have made history by their fearless and resilient resolve in the face of adversity. A lot of South African women were involved in fighting the Apartheid regime. On 9 August 1956, 20 000 women marched against the abusive system of ‘pass laws’. South Africa commemorates this day as “Women Day” in honor on these courageous women.

Pass laws were a form of an internal passport system designed to segregate the population between Blacks from Whites in South Africa, and thereby, severely limit the movements of the black African populace, manage urbanization, and allot migrant labor (Sources : sahistory.org.za)

To celebrate Women’s month below are 5 powerful women who made an impact in South Africa:

1. Lilian Ngoyi

Born in Pretoria in 1911, Lilian Masediba Ngoyi was an anti apartheid activist and freedom fighter. Throughout her time, her influence was felt amongst the black women in South Africa. Her distinct talent in public speaking made waves as her speeches resonated with thousands. She became one of the vice presidents of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) formed in 1954.

in 1955 she traveled to Europe, before to her election as FEDSAW president the next year. On August 9 1956, Lilian along with other freedom fighters, led the march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

2. Charlotte Maxeke

Charlotte Manye Maxeke is an early activist and advocate for women rights. She is considered as the “Mother of black freedom”. She was recorded to be born either in Fort Beauford in the Eastern Cape or at Botlokwa Ga-Ramokgopa in Limpopo. But that much hasn’t been clearly clarified as yet. Her achievements are quite impressive for a Black South African woman of her times.

Among her many ground breaking accomplishments, her recruitment into an African choir that was touring across Europe and the USA. Charlotte is also the first Black South African women to receive a university degree. When on tour in the US, the choir was left stranded . This was an opportunity to complete her studies. She obtained a Bachelor of Sciences degree from the Wilberforce University, the AME Church University in Xenia, Ohio.

It is worth mentioning that, she was taught under the eminent American pan Africanist W.E.B Dubois.

Later, when she returned in South Africa, she was heavily involved in multiracial civic movements. She is an early opponent to the pass laws for women. Charlotte has helped organized an anti pass protest of 700 women in Bloemfontein in 1913. Maxeke was also a columnist, writing about women related issues, in Xhosa.. She passed away on the 16th of October in 1939 and buried in Kliptown, Johannesburg

3. Winnie Mandela

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela is remembered for the struggles she encountered, as the wife of Nelson Mandela, during his incarceration. Starting her career as a social worker, Winnie made many sacrifices and dedicated her life to fight injustices. She notably rose to prominence as she acted as the public face of her imprisoned husband.

During the apartheid years , Winnie was arrested and detained on several occasions. She was tortured, put in solitary confinement and banned to rural areas.

Affectionately called “The Mother of the Nation”, Winnie is both a revered and controversial figure. But she will always be remembered, as one of the most courageous women in South African ‘s history, to have stood up to the inequality and injustices that Black people faced during a time of massive repression.

She was involved in politics until her death in 2018.

4. Miriam Makeba

Miriam Makeba, also known as Zenzile Miriam Makeba, was born in March 4th, 1932  in Johannesburg. She was a singer as well as a human rights campaigner. She was the first artist to put South African music on the international scene. Her mother, a domestic worker, was imprisoned for six months for illegally brewing beer to help make ends meet, and Miriam went to prison with her as she was just 18 days old. Miriam work shines through the name she has created for herself as an artist and acitivist.

Her history goes far beyond what is presented here, as she has been a part of various organisations and foundations such as the Zenzile Miriam Makeba foundation as well as the Miriam Makeba Rehabilitation centre which aided abused girls. Miriam’s work and achievements are not bound from her origin, as she is widely recognized globally, even as far as June 16 being declared Miriam Makeba day in the city of Berkeley and even receiving the highest decoration from Tunisia.

5. Helen Suzeman

Helen Suzman was born in the South African mining town of Germiston, on 7 November 1917. Her parents were both immigrants from Eastern Europe, who had come to South Africa to escape the restrictions imposed on Jews by Russia.

She was brought up in a family which had financial stability, and was educated at a convent and thereafter at the University of the Witwatersrand (WITS). Helen was an active member in the anti-apartheid resistance and did not share the ideals and the laws that were imposed on the black people of South Africa under the Apartheid regime.

Her work received recognition by the United Nations in 1978 and also won the Medallion of Heroism in 1980. In November 7th, 2007, After years and years of selfless work and efforts to put a stand to a chaotic and divided South Africa, Helen passed away at the age of 91 peacefully in her sleep.

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Letter from the editor: How to deal with disruption?





disturbance or problems which interrupt an event, activity, or process.

“The scheme was planned to minimize disruption”.

2. radical change to an existing industry or market due to technological innovation. “no industry is immune to digital disruption”

(Definitions from Oxford Languages)


For the past few weeks, months even, I have been deeply immersed in thoughts about how to deal with the current state of disruption. It’s been 18 months, that we’ve been living through this COVID-19 pandemic situation. Every aspect of our lives has been significantly DISRUPTED.

Most people around the world, well at least the ones working in the formal sectors, have now transitioned to working from home. School curriculums have also been heavily disrupted over the past 2 academic years. Students have to alternate between in-class and online schooling. Not to mention, the pupils of disadvantaged areas/families who are falling behind because of a lack of digital tools available to them.

For instance, the Department of Basic Education in South Africa has estimated that ” between 50% and 75% of learning that takes place during a normal school year had been lost.

The workplace environment has been transformed completely. Many companies are realizing that employees working remotely can be trusted without being micro-managed. Furthermore, polls worldwide are showing that a lot of people do not want to ever return to the office again. Some would rather resign than go back. Companies like Zoom, the virtual conferencing app and superstar of the pandemic (Zoom game night this weekend anyone? 🙂 ) are now exploring a hybrid approach, as a return to the office strategy.

Sadly, the most difficult aspect of this phase is however having to deal with loss. At this stage, we all have friends, relatives, family members, acquaintances, friends’ relatives ( including public figures and celebrities) that have succumbed to this deadly virus. Losses of health, jobs, opportunities and incomes included.

The constant state of grief, loss and flow of bad news has taken a heavy toll on individuals’ mental well-being.

This is the first pandemic in recent history, where global governments have had to ‘shut down the world’. Travels, social gatherings and movements of people are restricted as many countries are going through numerous lockdowns, to try to control the spread of the virus.   

This makes me wonder: have you ever found yourself in a situation, either personal or due to external factors, where you had to put your life literally on pause?

These drastic changes made me reflect on specific events, where the course of my life has been completely disrupted.

Three events that forced me to pause, regroup and start again, come to my mind. I’m going to break them into chapters.

The first chapter is called: Re-direction

At 18 years old, I left my country, the D. R Congo to go pursue tertiary studies in Belgium.

I did all of my primary and high school, at the French then the Belgian school in Congo. Going to Europe to further your studies is the normal route after you complete your curriculum in these schools. However, even though I had visited Belgium a few times, prior to me settling there to study, I didn’t enjoy my time in Belgium. It will be long to go into every detail of my almost decade long stay, however, let’s say that after a few years, I had enough of the constant feelings of failure and inadequacy; not to mention the daily microaggressions and other hardships African immigrants have to face.

At a moment when I was feeling my lowest, I was presented with an opportunity to relocate to the US. Fed up with life in Belgium, I didn’t think twice. I packed my bags and went back to my native Congo. From there, I was supposed to travel to the US to pursue new educational opportunities and promises of a new life (OK I sound a bit dramatic here!)

Unfortunately, the plan didn’t materialize. I ended up staying in DRC for a full year, wondering what to do next. I had to think of a plan B since going back to Belgium was out of question for me. I, instead, moved to South Africa and started off completely a new degree. This initial upset turned out to be fruitful, creative and fun for most of its part. This whole new path taught me to be resilient and resourceful in the face of adversity.  Most importantly, it taught me to enjoy life little detours. A blessing in disguise.

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference”. (Robert Frost, Poet)

This Chapter is Called Re-birth

This chapter is probably the most intense and personal one. My insane birth story. This could literally be a book. I would love, at some point, to be able to share every detail about my birth experience. A real testimony.

Social media has liberated women’s speech around pregnancy and birth. Internet is now full of women sharing their birth and delivery stories. “Mommy bloggers” constitutes a huge part of blogs’ market because, pregnancy, birth, motherhood, parenting is a life-changing experience. The stories are unique and endless.

I’m also glad that more women are empowered to share the ugly side of pregnancy and maternity. The risks and struggles associated with it, like post-natal depression or the heavy toll on women’s bodies.

Besides all the wonderful maternity and baby shoots, baby shower videos, gender reveals (a trend I absolutely hate. Read how the woman who started the trend also hate it now ), we need to be aware that not all pregnancies are wonderful experiences and go according to plan. Maternal deaths remain in many parts of the world, a highly possible outcome for too many women.

A near-death experience

My birth story is a near-death experience. Because of fibroids (non -cancerous uterine tumours, situated in or outside the uterus), I couldn’t give birth naturally. I was scheduled for a C-Section. But I started experiencing bleeding many weeks before my scheduled “due date”. I had to undergo the C-section at around 33 weeks, almost 9 weeks earlier; a full term is 42 weeks.

A haemorrhage ensued my C-Section. Thankfully, I was able to tell the nurses in time that I was feeling like I’m passing out moments after leaving the theatre. Everything started to look and feel blurry and dark. Fortunately for me, my gynaecologist immediately understood what was going on when the nurses called him back. He demanded (shouted rather) that I’m taken back immediately into the theatre. They had to re-operate me to stop the bleeding. I fell unconscious for I do not know how long and stayed in ICU after that (I guess I was in a coma for a short while). I had to be operated on several times during the same weekend.

I would forever be grateful to an amazing medical team, my dedicated gynaecologist (and intuition), God, my guardian angels, my ancestors (the whole gang!) because without them, I wouldn’t be here today (This sounds like an award acceptance speech right?). I would also like to thank my son, a little warrior whose first scents and love, kept me alive. Born prematurely (at 33 weeks and 1.860 Kgs) he had to stay in the NICU (Neo-Natal ICU) for a few weeks.

Anyway, my body completely shut down after that. I had mild renal failure. A nurse later told me they couldn’t get my blood pressure from the BP monitor at some point because it was so low. I by now should have been a maternal death statistic right now.

A miracle ending

After miraculously emerging from this ordeal, it took me months to regain my health. My vision was blurred for weeks. Breathing felt painful. I was out of breath after just a few steps. The pain in my tummy was terrible.

When I look back into this period of my life, I realized that I only started to feel strong again after a couple of months. My body felt completely DISRUPTED. It took me at least 2 years to feel like myself again, on all levels: health, psychological, physical and mental. Honestly, I sometimes feel like I’ve never completely recovered. But I’m sure many women feel this way about pregnancy, delivery and motherhood in general, even though their experience wasn’t as dramatic as mine.

“Giving birth and being born brings us into the essence of creation, where the human spirit is courageous and bold and the body, a miracle of wisdom.” Harriette Hartigan, midwife, photographer, author.

This chapter is called The New normal

Fast forward to living through the Covid-19 pandemic. We’re living through historic, fascinating yet scary times. There will definitely be a before and after the Pandemic”, just as we have a ”before and after WWI and WW II”, ”before or after Christ”. (Read here my musings the first few months of the lockdown)

Increased deforestations and loss of biodiversity, global environmental degradation, intensive animal farming, global travels, accelerated urbanization and our current economic models” are all factors known to increase the risk of zoonotic viruses jumping to human hosts and spreading with alarming ease” (Source: A Pandemic year in 10 quotes). And it might be the first (pandemic) of many.

It is interesting to read and witness all the socio-economical and life changes that humanity is going through right now. Companies and schools have had to fast-tracked their adoption of technologies. Working from home, homeschooling and zoom meetings are the new normal. Disruptive technologies facilitating all these changes are the big winners of the pandemic.

Conferences, concerts and large gathering events were forced to cancel live events and go online. They are now considering adopting hybrid models, mixing live and in person, with online events. The Olympics 2020, for instance, one of the biggest sports events were postponed to this year, (8 July -8 August 2021) and took place in mostly empty stadiums (must have been hard for the athletes).

Lastly, in today’s world where information is everywhere, vaccine hesitancy, misinformation and fake news are also interesting (and equally worrying) sociological trends to observe.

“Ultimately, the greatest lesson that COVID-19 can teach humanity is that we are all in this together.”
~ Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

So, over the next few weeks, I’m going to share more on content that nourishes my reflections on Disruption.

I would love to hear from you too: have you ever experienced something personal or due to external factors (war, riots, climate disaster, family or personal adversity, tragedy) that significantly disrupted the course of your life? How did you deal with the disruption?

Or how the current pandemic has affected/is affecting your life and the plans you had when New Year 2020 clocked in?

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for more content into the theme. Let’s keep the conversation going.

 It will be interesting to hear some of your stories.

Let’s get social and take this show on the road!

Let’s get social, let’s connect!

Website:    http://houseofnzinga.com/

Facebook page : House of Nzinga

Instagram@Fabulous_Trysh (Personal Page)

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Hello August 2021 : A little Note From The Editor

Helloo my warrior queens (kings you’re welcome too ) !

Welcome to this month’s content installation.

This August, I’m very inspired to bring you some awesome and meaningful content.

August is ‘women’s month’ in South Africa, because the country commemorates Women’s Day on 9 August. Read more about the meaning of this historical event and the women who have fought against apartheid, in our feature, 5 Powerful Women Who Made An Impact in South Africa.

Over the past few weeks, I have been reflecting into the many disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic on our daily lives. Read my very personal musing on the theme of DISRUPTION.

Let’s also hear for someone who has disrupted the music industry by constantly breaking barriers. I round up 3 takeaways from Beyoncé’s Harper’s Bazzar Interview.

You can look forward to more amazing content , on the theme of Disruption and other topics as the weeks progress

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Subscribe to my newsletter to be the first to know about new blog posts , new and interesting stuffs.

Also, I have decided to ditch the H/O.N Weekly feature in this current format. Instead follow me on my “socials” below for weekly content. Instead , I’m working on bringing it into a new and ‘snackable’ format . So stay tuned for more. 🙂

Let’s get social, let’s connect!

Website:    http://houseofnzinga.com/

Facebook page : House of Nzinga

Instagram:  @Fabulous_Trysh (Personal Page)

Instagram@House_of_Nzinga (Official Page)

Podcast: https://anchor.fm/houseofnzinga (Coming Soon!)

Welcome to the Queendom : https://houseofnzinga.com/welcome/

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