Government will launch the Charlotte Maxeke African Women’s Economic Justice and Rights Initiative in honour of the remarkable role the late social and political activist and icon played in promoting South Africa abroad.
According to the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), the initiative’s objective is to mobilise the global community behind the Gender Equality Forum’s Global Acceleration Plan, particularly the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights.
Addressing media ahead of her department’s budget vote in Parliament, Minister Naledi Pandor, said this year’s theme is ‘Building back better to advance the legacy of Charlotte Maxeke’.
“Our government declared 2021 ‘The year of Charlotte Maxeke’. Our theme, therefore, celebrates this remarkable woman, who would have turned 150 years this year.”
According to the Minister, in celebrating her legacy, DIRCO will reflect on her internationalism.
She cited Daluxolo Moloantoa’s article on how Maxeke used her singing talent to travel the world, flying South Africa’s flag high on the global stage, gaining international stardom.
Maxeke also became the first black South African woman to graduate with a Bachelor of Science from Wilberforce University in Ohio, United States.
The Minister also recalled how Maxeke and her choir members were left stranded and penniless on the streets of New York after their choir conductor vanished with all their money.
“[Maxeke’s] name was recognised in the newspapers by Bishop Daniel A Payne, of the African Methodist Church (AME) in Ohio, who went on to offer her an international scholarship. The scholarship emerged from a crisis and was indeed an act of solidarity.”
Pandor said Maxeke championed several programmes, including opening doors for other South Africans, especially women to study at Wilberforce University.
The Minister believes the activist’s story and values of Ubuntu resonate with the department.
“The core of our foreign policy is to improve the living conditions of South Africans and contribute to the wellbeing of our fellow Africans as well as all those who are yearning for freedom, peace and prosperity in the world. It is in our interest that Africa and the world is peaceful, politically united and economically prosperous.”
Charlotte Maxeke African Women’s Economic Justice and Rights Initiative
According to Pandor, the initiative will be implemented in three phases.
She announced the Charlotte Maxeke Africa Future Leadership Programme, which will be launched in June.
She said it will provide mentorship and training opportunities for Youth in International Policy and Diplomacy Work, and target 70% youth leaders from Africa and 30% from South Africa.
Meanwhile, the Charlotte Maxeke African Women’s Leadership Awards will celebrate women leaders across the continent.
“They will recognise and honour exceptional African women leaders whose achievements, mentorship, influence and contributions have advanced Africa’s development in various sectors of society.”
The annual Charlotte Maxeke Minister’s Breakfast with women ambassadors will provide the opportunity for Pandor to engage the ambassadors on gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives.
The Minister said details of the second phase, scheduled to start between 2022 and 2023, will be announced later.