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Winnie Madikizela Mandela is popularly known as Mother of the Nation by those who love her, but individuals who dislike her contend that she should be incarcerated for life. Whenever her name is mentioned, many individuals do experience strong emotions in one way or another. Winnie is a charismatic figure, who easily draws the attention of an audience with her great speeches. She is beautiful, and she likes designer African clothes. Who is this referred to as Winnie Mandela? This question can be answered effectively by examining her background, and one will realize what made her what she is today.
In 1936, she was born in South Africa at Bizana Transkei, which is today situated in the Eastern Cape. On 26th September this year, she celebrated her seventy fifth birthday in Johannesburg. She was born and raised in a family of eight children. Her mother taught her domestic science at an indigenous elementary school. Winnie’s farther served in the Transkei government as a clerk. Winnie is an African woman, who belongs to the Xhosa community that inhabits South Africa.
She faced her first tragedy when she lost her mother at a tender age. After her mother’s death, she assumed her position, and took care of her young siblings. Besides this, she had to attend school and handle all domestic chores in their family. Indeed this was a challenging moment in her life, and she almost stopped learning. However, she chose to grapple with these constraints.
During her early life, she demonstrated leadership skills, and this was depicted in the manner she socialized with her peers. For instance, she solved many problems that occurred among her colleagues. Another factor that accounted for her had work was the prejudice she faced as a girl. Her mother never liked her because she was born a girl and not a boy. In order to impress her mother, she worked extra had both in school and at home. Hence, she adopted the culture of hadwork. All these factors prepared her for future leadership.
Winnie had her elementary education at a primary school in their village, and upon graduating, she joined Shaw bury High School. She got excellent grades, and this enabled her to enroll for higher education at Jan Homfmeyer institution, where she graduated with a distinction in Sociology. However, this did not mark the end of her studies. Winnie became ambitious at an early age. During her early life, apartheid policies and practices were prevalent in South Africa.
Her life was complicated by these policies since she was black. This situation was exacerbated by the fact that she was a woman. Black women faced myriad challenges due to the extreme oppression that was meted on them. She later attended Witwatersrand University, where she studied International Relations, and got a Bachelor of Arts degree. Indeed, getting formal education in the 1940s was a dream many African children could not realize. Winnie became the first South African lady to get a degree.
Unlike many Africans that lived in abject poverty, Winnie came from a relatively well off family. She only witnessed the economic gap between the whites and Africans in South Africa, when she was deployed as the first black social worker. While working at Baragwanath Hospital she realized how African patients and workers were discriminated against.
In 1955, she met Nelson Mandela, while she was still serving at this hospital. Nelson was an influential attorney, and leader of a party known as African National Congress. In 1957, they got married. Nonetheless, marriage did not solve the challenges Winnie faced. She learnt to fend for herself right from the start of their marriage. This is because Nelson declared that he did not have time for his family, since he had a lot of political activities.
The incarceration of Mandela in 1962, impacted on Winnie’s life in many ways. Wiinnie was denied her rights to freedom of speech and association, because of her endless criticism of the apartheid regime. However, she continued going against the stringent measures that were imposed on her. She was also constantly harassed by police officers. Many individuals who pretended to be her sympathizers also betrayed her into the hands of the authorities.
She was at one point subjected to solitary confinement, and most of her colleagues were tortured to death. The government only spared her because they knew a civil war could break out if anything happened to her. Indeed, she almost messed herself. She established a football team, which ended up performing clandestine activities especially eliminating her betrayers. Winnie’s reputation was seriously messed by several murder allegations. One of such claims was the murder of a young boy known as Stompie Seipei.
These activities coincided with the release of Mandela, who defended Winnie and dismissed all her critics. However, Winnie faced another serious challenge in her marriage when she was strongly accused of having a relationship with one of her personal assistants. This led to their divorce, and she was never crowned the first lady on the Independence Day. Nonetheless, she remained a strong leader of the Women’s League, which is a women’s branch of African National Congress. She has served in this capacity for along duration, until she recently withdrew from mainstream politics.
In my view, Winnie has a bright future as a woman leader not only in South Africa, but in the whole world. Her future career is likely to focus on human rights activism, which she has done passionately. Although she has been victimized and oppressed, she has been able to transform the lifestyles of many ordinary African women and leaders. Indeed her tenacity and hard work enabled her to earn the title “mother of the nation”.