In bidding farewell to the late founding Speaker of South Africa’s democratic Parliament Dr Frene Ginwala, President Cyril Ramaphosa encouraged citizens to recognise that the struggle for equal rights and opportunities for women is far from won.
Delivering the eulogy at Ginwala’s memorial service in Johannesburg, Ramaphosa said despite significant progress, women are still under-represented in positions of authority, responsibility and influence across nearly all areas of public life.
“And despite the progressive policies we have pursued since the advent of democracy, women are still over-represented among the poor, the unemployed and the vulnerable,” he said.
Ramaphosa described Ginwala as a pioneer, pathfinder and a leader who was instrumental in setting up the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) first office in exile.
Ginwala passed away at her home in Cape Town on January 12, at the age of 90 following a stroke two weeks earlier. She was laid to rest in a private ceremony earlier this month.
She served the anti-apartheid struggle and South Africa’s democratic dispensation in a diversity of roles as a lawyer, academic, political leader, activist and journalist.
“We gather here this morning to celebrate the remarkable life of Frene Ginwala, and pay tribute to her profound contribution to the cause of freedom, peace and progress. We remember a life that was as rich in experience as it was rich in meaning,” said Ramaphosa.
He said Ginwala was an eloquent and persuasive champion of the cause of the South African people.
Ginwala formed part of the task force to establish the ANC Women’s League in the country. She became the convenor of the Women’s National Coalition, which brought together women from across the political spectrum to draw up a women’s charter.
Ramaphosa highlighted that this formation played a critical role in ensuring that the rights of women received proper attention in the negotiations process and were enshrined in the new constitutional order.
“As Frene would remind us, until we have achieved equality between men and women in all spheres of life, we will not be free. We will remember Frene Ginwala as a pioneer in building our democracy from the ruins of apartheid,” Ramaphosa stated.
She was also amongst the women who marched on the Union Buildings in 1956.
Ramaphosa said as part of the ANC’s negotiating team, Ginwala brought all her legal training, sharp mind and political conviction to forge a new Constitutional order in the country.
Ramaphosa added it was through her role as the first Speaker that she had the greatest and most enduring impact on the country’s young democracy.
Retired South African politician affiliated with the ANC, academic and businessman Mac Maharaj also attended the memorial service.
“May Ginwala’s legacy inspire us to soldier on to build the South Africa of our dreams. The South Africa enshrined in the Freedom Charter and in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, which was signed into the country’s foundation law at Sharpeville by the late former President Nelson Mandela on December 10, 1996,” he said.