Women played a central role as political activists in the struggle against apartheid and the emancipation of black women in South Africa, though this has tended to be overlooked. Well know anti-apartheid and women’s rights activists include Winnie Madikizela-Mandela political activist for equal rights and the emancipation of black women during the struggle for democracy in South Africa. Charlotte Maxeke led the way in establishing the ANC Women’s League and encouraging women to engage in the struggle for freedom. Albertina Sisulu, Helen Joseph, together with Lilian Ngoyi, played a powerful role in the formation of FEDSAW, spearheading the women’s march with other powerful female political leaders that protested against amendments to the pass laws.

Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka former South African Deputy President represented African women on the global stage in her role as UN Women Executive Director where, for two terms, 2013-2021, she supported calls for an Africa where Gender Equality and Women’s empowerment are recognized as important agendas not just for women but for the entire society. She significantly increased UN Women’s influence within and outside the UN system, expanded its partnerships, achieved more focused impact at scale, and more than doubled in size and revenue. In addition to her unwavering support for civil society and women’s organizations, Mlambo-Ngcuka brought in new advocates with emphasis on engaging youth, men and boys, traditional and cultural leaders, the private sector, philanthropies and the world of sport. She was also a strong supporter of a more coherent, accountable and coordinated UN system, working together to achieve gender equality.1 She was seminal in creating the Generation Equality campaign spearheaded by UN Women.