Feminist Activist Gertrude Fester Publishes Book About South Africa’s Women Struggles  By Cheryl Roberts

22 Aug

 

At a juncture when South Africa’s women’s voices are determined to give power to women amidst the male stranglehold of our society, surfaces the authentic voice of a human rights and gender activist, Gertrude Fester, an oppressed South African woman who gave her life for freedom in SA, has embraced the democratic SA but refuses to be accepting of patriarchy and male control of our society.

Anti-apartheid activist and former high treason trialist, Gertrude Fester has never ‘left’ or ‘taken a break’ from activism. For the past decade, while achieving a PHD degree after a break from academic life and in between bouts of ill-health, the former member of parliament in South Africa’s inaugural non-racial, democratic government, Gertrude has been using up her life’s time consciously sculpting a powerful voice through research, talks and seminars, academia and scholarly work and presentations on both the African continent and around the world.

Now she invites Cape Town to gather and remember and debate the fierce women’s activism of the 1980’s in the horrendous apartheid era; especially the voices and struggles of oppressed women who demonstrated to the apartheid regime that ‘you strike a woman, you strike a rock’.

‘The book has been published internationally by a German publisher but its exhorbitantly expensive. I just could not have my work being so out of the reach of South Africans. I have now ensured that the book is less expensive than the international price and more accessible to South Africans, with the publication of the South African edition, in the near future’, says Gertrude.

Titled “South African Women’s Apartheid And Post-Apartheid Struggles: 1980-2014”, the writer and publisher, who was herself a founding member and active and critical participant of the organization, explores women’s contributions and participation in the hard fought and intense anti-apartheid freedom struggle.

Gertrude Fester researched and wrote her PHD on the anti-apartheid women’s representative which was the Cape Town-based United Women’s Organisation (UWO). formed in 1981. It later amalgamated with Women’s Front to form the United Women’s Congress in 1986.

Now, a few years later, the PHD has been published as a book and Gertrude is launching and discussing the much-need book of activist women’s struggles and achievements and defeats, throughout her native country, South Africa.

The book is not only about women’s anti-apartheid struggles in South Africa but also about the post-apartheid battles and fierce contestations as women fought and continue to shout out for patriarchy to be dismantled and male control eliminated from society.

‘I did my PHD and subsequently wrote the book as an inside-outsider approach; the insider is as a member and participant and the outsider as the researcher,’ says Gertrude, about the publication which fills a gap in anti-apartheid publishing in South Africa with printed publications mostly written by men about men.

With her memorization of the pivotal junctures and chapters of women’s activism, Gertude is fully aware and concerned about the state of women’s activism in democratic SA, especially during women’s month when reports of rape, abuse and assault of girls and women are rife. And, with the 6Oth reflection of the historic women’s march in SA appearing in a year’s time, brave thinking and organization to commemorate and push forward for the visionary society which doesn’t abuse and women women, is already being suggested and thought about by the activist who has never given up or given in.

‘With the 60th anniversary of the Women’s march looming, we should constructively consult and confer how together, we should celebrate this event, but also look at what needs to be done to ensure a safe life for women and girls in SA.

I congratulate the Progressive Women’s Movement of South Africa (PWMSA) for drawing the attention of the Minister of Justice to the early and irregular parole of Oscar Pistorius.  On a sad note though, I’m outraged by events at a Vosloorus primary school on Monday 17 August where two girls were allegedly sexually assaulted by 6 boys between 7 and 10 years old. This is an indictment to our society and should tell us to reflect about what is happening in our society and what we can do about it’, says Gertrude.

Gertrude Fester’s invaluable contribution to oppressed women’s voices in South Africa, her scholarly work, her indelible participation in the anti-apartheid freedom struggle is acknowledged by international scholars and academics, amongst them being, Professor Shirley Randell, Founder of the Center for Gender at the University of Rwanda.  “I commend Professor Gertrude Fester’s book to all feminists and human rights activists around the world who are interested in the struggle of women in Africa for human rights. Gertrude is in a unique position to write on feminism in South Africa having lived and worked in the women’s liberation struggles through the anti-apartheid movement, been imprisoned for her efforts, privileged to serve in the Mandela Government and lead significant organizations since then. She chooses to focus on grassroots women and women’s organisation’s and through her insightful interviews their stories become alive for us. Her book is a brave history that will be feasted on be scholars for years to come,’ says Professor Randell.

I have not read the book yet but I’m going on the dynamism, fearless and authentic voice that is Gertrude Fester and am already recommending the book be a prescribed text for all gender and women’s studies at tertiary institutions and for every member of parliament and government employee in South Africa. This recall and celebration of women’s struggles, who boldly placed their lives on the line for human rights and patriarchy-free South Africa, must never be allowed to be forgotten and placed on a shelf out of remembrance and acknowledgement.gertrude fester

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