BOOK REVIEW: Albertina Sisulu memoir by Sindiwe Magona & Elinor Sisulu
“This book has instilled in me the audacity to know that even I will make a change in my community, and I will raise my voice for all the young women and girls in our country.”
The need to care for others began early in Albertina’s life. At the age of 11 her father passed on and requested her to take care of her mother and siblings, adding salt to an open wound her uncles claimed the land and livestock which belonged to Albertina’s father, robbing her family of their inheritance. This hit home, as when my own father died, my father’s sisters chased my mother out of her house; she was forced to return to her homestead and start a new life for herself. It is sad that after so many years this injustice still prevails, and the high number of girl child-headed families tells a gloomy story.
Nontsikelelo later became MaSisulu, wife to Walter Sisulu - the ANC Secretary-General; a senior nurse who received lower wages than her white colleagues. She was the breadwinner of her family and used her home as a base for the African National Congress. I am amazed by how Mama Albertina coped with her workload, family and community responsibilities. The same expectations and responsibilities are still placed heavily on us as young girls. We are expected to be strong but quiet, take care of our families (siblings, parents, uncles), be “wife-material”, ensure that everyone eats and be submissive. It seems freedom (equality) and tradition are oil and water that don’t mix, even in this age of democracy? Did Bo-MaSisulu fight in vain?
What one takes from MaSisulu’s life and book as an activist, is the importance of being part of a wider community whether by location, practice or interest.
Albertina was the only woman present at the first ANCYL meeting, she was also amongst the women who organised the protest march against pass laws for women. Sadly, with the disapproval of their fellow ANC male comrades. She endured several years of continuous bans and imprisonment yet refused to give up her convictions of seeing a free South Africa for all.
What one takes from MaSisulu’s life and book as an activist, is the importance of being part of a wider community whether by location, practice or interest. Real change is achieved by mobilising like-minded people. We have to be courageous, selflessness, have a clear vision and sterling commitment to the cause. This is the framework for fighting for justice and equality. This book has instilled in me the audacity to know that even I will make a change in my community, and I will raise my voice for all the young women and girls in our country. Just like MaSisulu.
Review by Ms. Molebogeng Maake, mentor: Raising Voices of Young Women and Girls, an EU-funded project in partnership with Soul City Institute.