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"Courageous women have broken boundaries," she said at the 35th anniversary of the Businesswomen's Association of SA in Sandton, Johannesburg.
Women such as Charlotte Maxeke had overcome obstacles. "Courage and leadership motivated them."
"She wrote to the president seeking a meeting with him in a bid to ask him not to extend the pass laws to women. When that failed she led the iconic 1956 march," Madonsela said.
Educated mothers raised educated children.
"If you educate a woman, you educate the community. If you invest in a woman, you invest in the community," Madonsela said.
She said the idea that women could not work together and pulled each other down was false.
"Without cellphones, social media, let alone a fax, women in 1956 worked together to organise the march."
She said women were good at lifting up people and should use the same spirit to nurture themselves spiritually, emotional and professionally.
"I once dropped out of university and it took my mother to persuade me to go back."
She commended the president of Businesswomen's Association of SA, Lebogang Pheko, for bringing women of different races together.
According to its website, the association was formed in 2000 after a merger of three women's organisations -- Executive Women's Club, the National Association of Women Business Owners, and the Professional Women's Leadership Development Organisation.
The association aims to be a united, non-racial business organisation that helps businesswomen to create connections on multiple dimensions -personal, professional and business - throughout their career.
It also creates opportunities for women business owners to grow their businesses.