The first campus branch of the ANC Women’s League is to openat Wits University. The initiative has been in the pipeline since 2008, and with a task committee in place, is ready to launch next month.
“The aim of the league (ANCWL) is to encourage more women to join the ANC, by giving them an organization that speaks to them,” says Itumeleng Mafatshe, vice-chairperson of the SRC and convener of the newly formed ANCWL.
“During apartheid women had it tough, they could be part of the ANC but could never lead. This shows their commitment to the struggle – they wanted to exist in a space where they weren’t welcome or appreciated.”
The ANCWL was founded in 1931 as the Bantu Women’s League, with Charlotte Maxeke as its first president. It was integrated into the ANC in 1943, when women were first admitted as members of the ANC. It was active in organising protests such as the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the passbook protests of August 9 1956.
Mafatshe says the focus of the Wits ANC Women’s League would be to develop young women.
“We want to strengthen the women’s voice within the ANC, as we feel there is not enough room within the existing structures for development, and the programmers’ don’t always speak to our specific requirements.
“We all know that we live in a patriarchal society and we believe women need to organize themselves. In the past men would organize for women in the ANC, who would then participate by doing domestic tasks. But in the 1940s women started saying they could contribute more. Our ANCWL would make sure there would be seasoned women leadership on campus.”
Mafatshe says the women’s league will continue to be inspired by anti-apartheid activists such as Albertina Sisulu.
“We takecognisanceof the role comrade Sisulu played in the organization and a lot of the principles she lived by are principles we abide by. She withstood the odds of patriarchy – those are the types of things we need to learn from her.”
Students who are members of the national ANC may join the Wits ANCWL.