What I, as young black female, learned from Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

Winnie Madela, circa 1970s.
Winnie Madikizela Mandela Winnie Madela, circa 1970s.
Image: Sunday Times

“I think women are foolish to pretend they are equal to men, they are far superior and always have been.” – William Golding

Winnie Mandela indubitably initiated the wave of feminism and womanism in South Africa. The ecstasy and exhilaration of witnessing a black woman passionately defy an oppressive white colonial system was captivating. Her influence was vast and infectious that it trickled down to young girls in the township.

Frequently, one would encounter a group of girls chasing a group of boys, while chanting “Wathint’abafazi wathint’imbokodo” repeatedly, mimicking Winnie and the ANC Women’s League taking turns to be the leader, Winnie. Albeit as young girls we did not utterly comprehend the situation; we felt its command.

The command necessitated the elevation of all black women and girl children, to rise in the face of adversity and claim their power. Oblivious to a soliloquy that would propel us to ignite our agency to thrive in our own right.

While recollecting all the horrendous, mostly fabricated, stories I heard about her. My initial thought after I first came across an image of Winnie Mandela was, how could someone this conventionally attractive be alternative in their behaviour. 

The simple explanation is: physical appearance is not our most esteemed asset – intelligence and wisdom is our mind’s greatest asset. These are essential features that assist us to gravitate towards our passion.

Winnie reassured us of the complexity of being a strong and intelligent woman.

Women have significantly experienced objectification. It is permissible to be an enigmatic woman who is misunderstood, celebrated and detested. Likewise, to be a radical and unapologetic feminist who is outspoken.  This echoed to subsequent generations of black women. She was way ahead of her time, which is the reason why she is iconic

In my early university days I became aware of Winnie Mandela’s falsification in history.

I started questioning the ideas that shape our truth. Why is there a lack of representation of females - patriarchy? Why are all my lecturers white males - institutional racism? These two ideologies and realities conflicted and contented with Winnie’s legacy and consequently distorted her reputation.

This is what she referred to about challenging the narrative of the role of women in society. We need to forge our way into spaces where black females are disembodied. 

Personify Black girl magic and achieve greatness, celebrate the beauty, power and resilience of black women. We need to seize the moment and be active in documenting and creating our history; otherwise we will permanently be recalled in history as aggressors and violent for standing up for our rights.

Winnie Madikizela has epitomised what it means to be a formidable woman. She is a true testament that women were created with the purpose to build a nation. We have inherited an abundance of teachings; our existence as black women has been mirrored so vividly - which is not all rosy and romanticised, but honest.

She did not pass away, she multiplied, her legacy birthed vivacious young black woman dedicated and determined to fight the nuances of struggles we encounter on a daily basis. We are coming for everything society assumed we could not possess.

Lerato Moloi is young black female from Soweto. She is a UCT graduate with a Bachelor of Social Sciences: majoring in Political Sciences, International Relations and Industrial Sociology, fashion blogger and the Founder of Silikamva Support Programme.

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