Anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela dies at 81


South African activist and leader Winnie Madikizela-Mandela dies at 81.

The former first lady and anti-apartheid activist remains a strong symbol of the country’s three-decade struggle for equality.

Mrs Madikizela-Mandela was born in the Eastern Cape in 1936. She began her early career as a social worker before marrying her husband Nelson Mandela. When she took the position at Baragwanath Hospital she broke through her first barrier, becoming the first black social worker in South Africa.

Madikizela-Mandela later became responsible for carrying forward the anti-apartheid movement in light of her husband’s sentence to lifetime imprisonment. As a result, she endured much of the same hostile treatment during her public resistance. She herself suffered numerous arrests and abuse for her role in the movement.

Madikizela-Mandela’s essential role in the fight for equality earned her the nickname “Mother of the Nation” as well as worldwide reputation and honour.

Madikizela-Mandela leaves behind a legacy of defiance and will be remembered for her fiery passion and desire to overturn an inhumane system at any cost. Her dedication and perseverance remain an example to a rising generation of activists seeking to challenge current systems of injustice.

Nobel laureate and famed archbishop Desmond Tutu expressed his sentiments saying, “Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me, and to generations of activists.”

In addition to inspiring today’s activists, Madikizela-Mandela also inspired a generation of female politicians to run for election and continue breaking barriers.

Today the world celebrates a woman who epitomized power, strength, and ambition; a woman that through her hard will and grit helped make a vision of justice and equality into a reality.

Cameron de Matteis