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Women and the African National Congress: 1912-1943

1 October 2001

For the first 30 years of the its existence, the exclusion of women from full membership in the Constitution of the South African Native National Convention (SANNC/ANC), contrasted with the participation of women in the deliberations, decision making and campaigns of the organisation, (though not in the leadership). This apparent contradiction arose from the reality of African women`s involvement in resistance and the peculiar structure of the ANC, which allowed for ways in which women could participate.

The exclusion of women was not surprising nor exceptional for the time. The societies from which the white settlers originated and the indigenous societies they encountered in South Africa were male dominated and patriarchal. In 1912, throughout South Africa government and politics were generally seen as the terrain of men, and all women, black and white were denied the right to vote. 2

That women were excluded from membership of the major political organisation of the African people was to be expected: the more so, as the formation of the SANNC was intended to unite the African people, and constructed to express an alliance between the traditional rulers, the educated petty bourgeoisie and aspirant middle class. The absence of women from political institutions does not necessarily lead to their absence in the political arena. The ways in which women worked with and in the ANC is complex, and it is not correct to say, that the exclusion of full membership "...laid the basis of the ANC`s treatment of women for the next twenty five years, as a separate category of members outside of the scope of its regular activities." (Walker, 1982)

While all Africans were subjected to conquest, colonial rule and dispossession, the way in which women and men experienced these differed as did their political, economic and legal status. These differences shaped their particular response, helped to determine the issues they took up, and the methods of struggle adopted.

In the wake of the conquest, there emerged a group of Africans, mostly mission educated, who turning their backs on traditional African society sought entry into the colonial one. The liberal values as proclaimed by British Imperial and colonial governments, and adopted by Africans, had led to a not unreasonable expectations that Africans would be admitted into the new society being established in South Africa. Though the expectations of the African people had been repeatedly frustrated, they continued to hope and form organisations to protect and expand African interests and rights from within the constitutional framework an and institutions of the new system. These organisations adopted the style of the conquerors and addressed the authorities in ways that would be considered acceptable by whites, and would not alienate them. They saw the franchise as a gateway to this society and focused their political demands on it. As a consequence, the leadership and membership of the organisations inevitably came from those who would qualify for the franchise: men of property and education.

While sharing the overall objectives, women, and those without property and education, did not feel it necessary to operate only within the parameters laid down by colonial society and were less inclined to comply with or accommodate settler rules and sensitivities. While some women saw themselves as gender images, "the wives and daughters" of the ANC leadership, most of those who participated in resistance differed in the issues they took up, their organisation, mobilisation and methods, as well as economic status and educational levels. To a greater extent than the SANNC, the women`s resistance was shaped from below.

Because women chose to engage in issues of immediate and direct relevance to their daily lives, they found it easy to mobilise support and mount campaigns. In the context of colonialism and the nature of the oppression of the African people, these issues were relatively easy to resolve. But they were not linked to long term goals, the campaigns did not lead to lasting organisational formations. Men assumed, and women conceded, that defining and achieving the long term goals was men`s territory.

When dealing with officials women were handicapped by a lack of fluency in European languages, and of confidence. These handicaps were made worse by the frequent refusal of white officials to meet with or listen to women.

Men, sometimes national leaders, were requested to act as go-betweens or interpreters. Generally they tried to control women`s initiatives and steer them away from militant and direct action. It was not so much that they were opposed to such methods in principle, but rather that they were concerned to ensure that an `acceptable` and reassuring image of Africans were always presented to whites.

Two cases in East London act as an example of the influence exercised by national leaders. In August 1908, Izwi (18 August 1908) praised the women for the way in which they brought their grievances to the attention of the authorities and said their `activities were far more organised than any ever attempted by men`. A report (Izwi laBantu, 1 September 1908) of another meeting two weeks later presents a totally different picture. This time women spoke through an interpreter. They said this was their birthplace and they had nowhere else to go. They told the mayor that if they were arrested for rent arrears, they would not resist.

The issues around which women mobilised before and after the formation of the Union of South Africa, were materially based. In the Transvaal in 1910, women protested at the lack of employment opportunities.

"It is well known that our husbands are getting low wages and cannot afford to discharge their liabilities unless they get our assistance...All classes of work formerly performed (by women) are now in the hands of men, e.g.

kitchen or general servants work, washing and ironing, eating houses for natives, nursing in native hospitals...

(Petition by Ellen Leeuw and 122 Native women to the Mayor of Johannesburg, 23 March 1910)

In the two case in East London referred to above, women complained that Indians and Chinese were taking over all the work as washerwomen and wanted the Mayor to put an end to this as they had no other employment opportunities. They further asked the Council for permission to start `a coal and wood business.` Other complaints were high rents and bus fares.

The trigger for the militant Orange Free State Anti-pass campaign was the enforcement of the regulation requiring women to purchase permits to use the municipal wash house, which further limited their ability to retain economic independence3.

These were very different concerns from those that prevailed amongst the founding fathers of the SANNC who met in Bloemfontein on 8 January 1912.

They clearly conceived of it as an organisation of men in which women`s participation would be limited to their stereotyped `traditional` domestic roles. The draft constitution4 placed before the founding Congress refers to three classes of membership. The prevailing patriarchal notions of women`s roles in society were inscribed in the constitutional provisions for and duties of a category of "auxiliary" members, automatically enrolled without fee and hence with no vote.

"All the wives of the members of any affiliated branch or branches and other distinguished African ladies where the Congress or Committee therefore shall be holding its sessions shall ipso facto become auxiliary members of the Congress during the period of such session... It shall be the duty of all auxiliary member to provide suitable shelter and entertainment for delegates to Congress."

"Ordinary membership" on payment of a fee of 2s 6d, was open to "men who belong to the so-called Negro or aboriginal African races south of the Zambezi." Their duties were to "join some local organisation or in person to attend to all the Annual sittings of the Congress."

Provision was however made for the participation of "exceptional" women. In addition to a class of Honorary Members composed of "Ruling Chiefs and Hereditary Princes of African blood", honorary membership could be conferred on "Men and Women who shall have rendered eminent service to the native races of South Africa". Honorary members paid an enrollment fee of 10s 6d and had two votes.5

However, by 1912, women had been participating in a number of overtly political Associations and Congresses which were later to constitute the SANNC. In 1902 Charlotte Manye, later Maxeke was one of the three representatives from the Transvaal who was sent to the SANNC conference in the Cape. Her contribution was highly praised, but the franchise orientated SANNC concluded that the time was not right for women to participate in political organisations (see Odendaal, 1983).

In the Afrikaner Republic there was no history of involvement in constitutional or electoral politics, and the focus of the Orange River Colony Native Congress (ORCNC) ranged over a number of issues, including passes for women. As African organised in opposition to the racist constitution of the proposed Union of South Africa, leaders such as Thomas Mapikela tried to organise local and regional groups, and establish a permanent national organisation.

After the 1909 African delegation returned to South Africa having failed to move the British Government on the constitution, Mapikela traveled around the Orange River Colony, explaining the results of his mission at well attended public meetings in most of the major urban centers of the province.

He also used the occasions to organise support for the ORCNC. He asked local groups and people to submit statements on any matters they wished to be discussed at the annual Congress in January 1910. These would possibly be put to the South African Native Convention before being submitted to the colonial authorities (Odendaal, 1984). This grassroots mobilisation brought women and the pass issues into greater prominence in the province.

The Anti-Pass campaign
The Free State Anti-Pass Campaign highlighted the different approaches of women and men in pursuance of a common demand, and serves to illustrate aspects of women`s relationship with the male dominated political organisations.

Opposition to passes for African women had featured regularly in most of the representation that were made to the authorities, and the 1912 SANNC Conference passed a resolution urging the repeal of all laws which compelled African women to carry passes. Less than a month later, women in the province began collecting signatures for a petition which they decided to present directly to the authorities in Cape Town. Within weeks they had collected over 5000 signatures (no mean accomplishment) and began to prepare to go to Cape Town. (Wells, 1982).

The authorities as well as the political organisations were discomforted by women who took initiatives, especially at national level. The Minister of Native Affairs wrote to the President of the SANNC, John Dube, advising the male African leaders to prevent the women`s deputation from coming to Cape Town, as he feared such a deputation would lead to further agitation and excitement amongst whites that would make it more difficult for the SANNC other representations to succeed. However, the women would not be dissuaded and in the event Walter Rubusana assisted in the presentation of the petition and accompanied the women`s deputation to the Minister (Wells, 1982)6.

In the Afrikaner Republics no distinctions had been made between Africans and Coloureds and the communities lived together in the same locations and under the same restrictions. Coloured women who were also required to carry passes, were involved in the campaigns against them. Their independent actions caused the African People`s Organisation (APO) to express it concerns and its paper chided them: "We think the deputation might have awaited the Native Congress. It is also regrettable that Coloured women of the Orange Free State did not consult the executive of the APO`s Women`s Guild. We feel sure that no deputation of Coloured men of the APO would come to Cape Town without first acquainting the Executive with the object of its mission." (APO 6 April 1912)

The ORCNC however called a special general meeting of its members to hear a report from the deputation after its return from Cape Town. Later, many centers elected one man and one woman as their delegates to the Annual Conference, where one of the women`s leaders, Katie Louw, reported on the progress of the anti-pass campaign. (Odendaal, 1984)

The Free State women did not confine themselves to making representations, and in May 1913 decided to stop carrying passes or buying permits. The action spread across the provinces and there were numerous confrontations with the police as they tried to rescue those being taken to prison after sentence. The women who went to prison for refusing to carry passes lived in the urban centers, but were not all from amongst the elite. While some of the leaders of the Native and Coloured Women`s Association formed during the campaign were the wives of Congress leaders, three of the eleven executive members of the Native and Coloured Women`s Association (NCWA) were not literate.7

Initially women had mobilised through manyanaos, but as the campaign spread across the province and the number of women in prisons grew, women from the Orange Free State Congress and the APO Women`s Guild came together and set up the NCWA to oversee the campaign (Wells, 1982). The NCWA tried to mobilise support, and raised funds to provide for those in prison and for medical treatment after they completed their sentence.

As the Free State campaign involved both African and Coloured women, there would have been a need for some coordinating body, but there is little information on how and why the new organisation was set up. Neither has it been possible to ascertain the precise relationship between this `women`s` organisation and the SANNC or APO or their provincial affiliates. The few surviving documents of the organisation, relate to its solidarity work, i.e.

petitions, letters in the press, fund raising appeals, etc. This is precisely the sort of task that one would have expected the existing organisations to have undertaken. However, both the provincial and National Congresses were preoccupied with the recently enacted (1913) Land Act. They may as well have felt it inappropriate to divert their attention and scarce resources to the women`s campaign.

As the campaign progressed, the earlier misgivings about women`s independence and militancy had given way to admiration and a general pride in the women`s achievements. The Secretary General of the SANNC Sol Plaatje visited the women in prison, expressed his admiration (and surprise at their determination), and tried to publicise the resistance and mobilise support.

The African press rallied to the support of those who were imprisoned, as did the APO journal and the Indian Opinion.

The NCWA addressed an appeal to "many Europeans friends in the provinces" urging them to use their influence to get legislation introduced in Parliament abolishing passes for women. They also addressed a petition to Governor Gladstone. These were initiatives similar to those of the SANNC, but there they were being undertaken in a context where women were continuing to go to prison for refusing to carry passes. Also the content and approach in the representations differed from those made by men.

The NCWA addressed such issues as sexual harassment by police in enforcing pass laws, and cited examples in explaining their resistance: "A white Superintendent of the Location demanded a pass from the girl at home and failing to produce one was arrested and taken to the charge office.

The Superintendent made improper overtures on the way to the girl. The latter resented the overtures, but she was ultimately taken by force and outraged by this man." (Petition of the OFS Native and Coloured Women to Governor General in 1914)

This contrast with the protests made by male leaders about the sexual harassment of African women:

"I marry a women in the church and I think I have done what civilisation demands and that as my wife she will be protected as a respectable married woman, but I find her being mauled by a man who is far lower in the scale of civilization than she is herself and merely because the law gives him the power to do so."

(Joseph Twayi in Minutes of Interview between Mayor and Natives, Bloemfontein 1913, quoted in Wells, 1982:85).

Women acknowledged the national leadership of the SANNC, and followed its general directive in suspending their campaign for the duration of the 1914-18 War.

The Bantu Women`s League
The SANNC did not adopt a constitution until 1919. By then, women had established through the Anti Pass campaign that they had a role in the political life of the nation that went beyond providing entertainment and accommodation. Though acknowledging this, the SANNC was not yet ready to admit them to full membership. At the inaugural Conference it had been resolved:

"that it was expedient and desirable that a well digested and accepted native opinion should be ascertainable by the Government and other constituted authorities with respect to the Native problem in all its various phases and ramifications.

(Constitution of the SANNC, 1919)
That opinion was to continue to be expressed by men. There appears to have been no demand from women for membership, and they did not consider the SANNC or its provincial affiliates as appropriate vehicles to mobilise for their own campaigns. A pattern had been established of grassroots mobilisation and participation by women, while dealing with authorities at local or national level was to remain the province of men.

The SANNC leadership had encouraged the formation in 1918 of the Bantu Women`s League (Wells, 1982)8 to organise women against proposals to extend passes to women throughout the Union. The Constitution adopted the following year, provided that Auxiliary Membership of the SANNC "should be open to all Women of the aboriginal races of Africa over the age of 18 years, who shall be members of the Bantu Women`s National League of South Africa... auxiliary members under the auspices of the League whenever required shall provide suitable shelter and entertainment for member or delegates to meetings of the Association." (Constitution of the SANNC, 1918)

There were two significant changes from the 1912 daft. The original reference to "wives of " members... and other distinguished African ladies" was altered to "women", and there was an acknowledgement that women were entitled to organise politically.

The Bantu Women`s League pursued an independent course, and did not affiliate to the SANNC9. Nor did it function as expected. In Charlotte Maxeke it had a leader of national standing among the African people and one who was capable of dealing directly with legislators and officials. Women no longer had need of interpreters or spokesmen, but could articulate their demands and make their own representations. At a National level, the League made representations to authorities through delegations meeting with the Prime Minister and other officials, appearing before Commissions and Inquiries (Walshe, 1970: South African Outlook, 1921).

At the grassroots, women`s militancy was being encouraged by Charlotte`s appearance and statements on the platforms of the Industrial Commercial Workers Union (ICU)10 and the radically orientated Transvaal ANC of the post war period. The League formed branches across the country, some of the most active being in the Transvaal and OFS. These took up local issues and participated in the campaign initiated by political organisations and trade unions at local and national level.

Within days of the inaugural conference of the ICU, the Bantu Women`s League of Pietersburg drew up a list of grievances of women farm workers. Examples were cited of farmers making women do exceedingly heavy physical labour, even when they were in advanced stages of pregnancy and detailed the case of a farmer who forced women workers to stand in a pool of clod water for half a day as punishment for complaining about conditions. The workers also objected to being forced to work until midnight without time off for meals.

The League`s representations were sent to Pretoria, where no action was taken, as the complaints were considered to be "exaggerated" (Kimble & Unterhalter, 1982).

Little is known about the other leaders or members of the Bantu Women`s League, except some names. Clearly Charlotte Maxeke was dominant. To a greater extent than the SANNC, the Bantu Women`s League suffered from organisational weakness: the bulk of women were rural, poor, non-literate and inexperience in western style politics and organisation. There was little financial support - money was raised from teas etc - quite literally in pennies and occasional shillings. There were not full time officials, and leaders had to find the time from their employment or professions, and frequently also had to fund their planned activities themselves.

After the death of her husband in 1928, Charlotte Maxeke devoted more time to her career. She established an Employment Bureau and was later employed as a probation officer by the Johannesburg Municipality. She devoted more attention to welfare work and less to politics. The League remained in existence for some years, though mainly in the person of Charlotte Maxeke.

She participated in the All African Convention, where the decision was taken to establish a new women`s organisation which became known as the National Council of African Women, with Charlotte Maxeke as its President.

The ANC Women`s Section
It has not yet been possible to ascertain the date and manner of formation of the ANC Women`s Section, nor to locate its constitution. It is likely that as the Bantu Women`s League asserted its independence, the Women`s Auxiliary was revived as a subordinate body within Congress and renamed the Women`s Section. By the 1920`s the Women`s Section had branches in a number of centers and announcements of the officers of the Congress, often included the names of the Chairwomen of the `Women`s Auxiliary` or `Women`s Section`.

The Annual Conference also appointed a Chief Organiser for the Women`s Section.
The Women`s Section was represented on the Executive through the Provincial President of their Sections (National Gazette, 1927) and branches were supposed to be self-financing and self-sufficient. Members paid an annual subscription of 3 shillings on which branches could draw for their expenses.

After the Transvaal ANC had incurred a debt of 110 pounds in 1926 to fight the imposition of passes on women through the courts, a circular letter was sent urging Women`s Section branches to send whatever monies they had in their possession to pay off "this debt incurred on their behalf". (Circular letter to Provinces and branches, own emphasis)

The Women`s Section and the Bantu Women`s League operated as separate organisations, but had an overlap of members and leader. Charlotte Maxeke was considered to be an ANC leader, taking full part in proceedings and appearing on platforms at public meetings. The African Yearly Register published in 1930 by the Secretary General of the ANC, Mweli Skota, lists a number of women who were founder members or officers of the ANC Women`s Section, and a number who were also active in the Women`s League. Mrs. Nuku of Beaconsfield Kimberley is described as a social worker and a leading member of the church temperance movement who had been "Chairman of the local branch of the Women`s League and Women`s Section." (Skota, 1930: 230). Two sisters, Mrs. M. Kondile and Mrs. M. Bobojane were foundation members of the "Women`s Section of the African National Congress" (Skota, 1930: 166 & 133).

The elder, Mrs Kondile, who at one time was in charge of a grocery store and a news agency, is described also as a "prominent member of the Women`s League" and one of the best women`s organisers in the Transvaal. Charlotte Maxeke who assisted in preparing the biographical sketches for the volume is described as "founder and President of the Bantu Women`s League" (Skota, 1930:195)

In the late 1930`s in the context of the attempts to revitalise and reorganise the ANC, the role and function of the Women`s Section was also debated.

Women in the ANC
As we have seen women were active in the provincial congresses before the formation of the SANNC, and continued to be involved at branch level particularly in the Free State and the western Cape. Women participated in the Annual Conference which was the highest decision making organ. The majority were elected as part of the provincial Congress delegates. Others represented affiliate women`s groups such as Daughters of Africa and Zenzele. 11

They spoke on a range of issues, rarely on matters affecting women exclusively. On the first day of the 1937 Session, celebrating the 25th Jubilee, the lone woman speaker criticised the Congress for its extensive attention to festivities when it had no money for organisation (Bunche, 1937)12. Later in the same session a Mrs. Peters moved a resolution urging that The Wages and Conciliation Act be amended to make all wage determinations apply to African workers in all industries. The following year, Mrs. Benjamin leading the debate on National Policy of Congress appealed for support for the low paid African workers in the Bloemfontein water works who were earning only 1/9d per day.

Their contributions particularly in these years, made constant reference to the need to reorganise and strengthen the ANC. The Conference Minutes of 1938, report the intervention of a delegate of the Cape African Congress, Mrs. LP Nikiwe of Port Elizabeth, who advanced "several interesting arguments to prove that the African women were interested in Politics." Amongst their recommendations was: "To acquaint Congress with the Masses."

Women also served on important Conference Committees such as Resolutions and Finance and voted on all resolutions as well as for the Officers. The extent to which women`s de factor participation in the ANC was considered unremarkable is illustrated in the course of disputes over the re-election of Pixley ka Seme as President in 1933. Three years earlier he had ousted the radical James Gumede, who, on his return from the Soviet Union, had proposed radicalising the ANC by organising mass demonstrations and forming an alliance with the Communist Party. In the interim the ANC had become moribund. In 1993 when Seme was due to stand for re-elections, he packed the Annual Conference. Thirty seven of the 69 delegates were from Bloemfontein, the majority of them women. Of the 27 delegates who voted to re-elect Seme, 22 were women. The Speaker declared the proceedings unconstitutional, but Seme continued in office. Seme was attacked and accused of not getting the necessary votes from all provinces, but non of his critics challenged the right of women to vote and determine the leadership of the organisation. (Cape Times 22 April 1930. Umteteli wa Bantu 29 April 1933).

As the ANC went into decline, so did the Women`s Section. But many of the women who were prominent in ANC conferences, appeared in the meetings of the All African Convention (AAC) in 1935-38: Charlotte Maxeka, Minnie Bhola, Mrs. Mahabane.

The National Council of African Women and the revival of the ANC Women`s Section

Over 30 women attended the AAC in 1935. Among the women`s organisation in the participant were the Pimville Women`s League and the Africa Women Self-Improvement Society.

The women delegates met separately during the Convention and resolved:

"that the time has come for the establishment of an African Council of women on similar lines to those of the National Councils of other races in order that we may be able to do our share in the advancement of our race."

Their decision was later endorsed by the AAC. In the following years, several branches were set up and a national organisation launched in 1937, called the National Council of African Women (NCAW).

The NCAW did not regard itself as primarily a political organisation, but rather one involved in "non-European welfare". Most of its members were teachers or nurses. It took up issues of teachers salaries, education, provision of cr?ches, widows rights of inheritance, delinquent children, etc. The NCAW immediately came under the influence of white liberals such as Mrs. Rheinhald-Jones, and many African women attacked it as being run by white women (Walker 1982)13.

The AAC had expected the new organisation to be responsible to it. In 1936 the Convention resolved "that women be authorised to form branches of the NCAW in terms of the decision of the last Conference". (AAC, 1936, own emphasis). However, the NCAW did not affiliate to the AAC, though some of its branches did. The reluctance to affiliate arose from the NCAW desire to speak for itself, and not subordinate itself to the AAC. The AAC had not approved of the women making direct representations to the authorities.

Divisions within the AAC almost led to Mina Soga losing her seat on the Council (AAC, 1940)14. Mina Soga was a founding member of the NCAW and its first Secretary General and Organiser.

The ANC welcomed the formation of the NCAW, but eventually found itself with the same difficulties as the AAC. The NCAW send greetings to ANC Conferences and promised to work together, but steadfastly retained its independence. In May 1939, the ANC invited the NCAW to participate in the Joint Deputation to the Minister and Secretary for Native Affairs. ANC President General Mahabane voiced his concern, as not only had the NCAW not come to Cape Town and joined the delegation, but he had learnt that Charlotte Maxeka had been there earlier and seen the Minister independently (Cape Times, 16 May 1939).

When the NCAW was formed there was some uncertainty about the continuation of the Women`s Section. The appointment of the Chief Organiser of the Women`s Section in 1937, was deferred until the final constitution of the new organisation was known. The following year brought a significantly larger number of women15 to the ANC conference and Mrs. Nikiwe spoke on "The Organisation of African women as a section of Congress". A suggestion that the Women`s Section affiliate to the NCAW was not taken up.

Even before the formation of the NCAW a debate begun among women, about the nature of a new women`s organisation. Some like Charlotte Maxeka had been calling for an organisation dealing with the growing welfare needs of the African people in the 1930`s. Others felt that priority should be given to an organisation with a strong political orientation. Josie Mpama was the most articulate spokesperson for this view. Following the Urban Areas Act of 1937, which further restricted the mobility of African women, she urged:

"We women can no longer remain in the background or concern ourselves only with domestic and sports affairs. The time has arrived for women to enter the political field and stand shoulder to shoulder wit their men in the struggle." (Umsebenzi, 26 June 1937)

She also attacked the NCAW for its ineffectiveness and called for an effective organisation that would bring women into the general political struggle.

In 1941, the ANC resolved to revive the Women`s Section, and that women "be accorded the same status as men in the classification for membership." The resolution recommended further:

"That the following means be made to attract the women (a) to make the programme of the Congress as attractive as possible to women, (b) a careful choice of leadership." (ANC, 1941)

The revival of the Women`s Section was part of the process of reorganisation of the ANC. A draft document on organisational structure dated 1942 indicates that the Women`s Section was seen operating "under the supervision and direction" of the parent body (ANC Draft Constitution).

In 1943, the ANC resolved that a Women`s League be formed. The debate on the status of the League continued with the women calling for autonomy and the men wanting greater control. In 1945, a resolution from the Executive read:

"that the women of this Congress be allowed to organise autonomous branches wherever they desire within the ANC." led to protests from some men, and statements of appreciation from women delegates. (ANC, 1945)

But the following year, the ANC Bulletin (194)warned that the granting of permission to women to set up the League "does not mean parallelism, but co-operation and mutual assistance in the building up of membership and funds for both sections."

When women were accepted as full and equal members of the ANC, there was a consensus that women`s mobilisation was necessary to strengthen the organisation. While recognising some of the practical problems faced by women in participating fully, there appears to have been limited understanding of the inherent problems of at the same time providing for a separate women`s organisation.

In 1945, a draft constitution explained the need for a women`s section:

"In the Congress women members shall enjoy the same status as men, and shall be entitled to elect and be elected to any position including the highest office. Notwithstanding this fact, however, and without in any way diminishing the rights of women members, the Congress may, recognising the special disabilities and differences to which African women are subjected and because of the peculiar problems facing them, and in order to arouse their interest and facilitate their organisation, create a Women`s Section within its machinery, to be known as the ANC Women`s Section."

Further on the same document contains this telling sentence "...the relations between the Women`s Section and the men`s section shall be on the basis of co-operation and..."

In the 1943, the constitutional hurdle had been overcome, but there was, and is today, a long way to go towards realizing that: "...the socialist revolution needs women`s creative participation at least as much


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