South African’s National Liberation Movement

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Media Statement


The African National Congress Women’s League (ANCWL) honours and remembers the historic launch of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) on 17 April 1954, in Johannesburg. FEDSAW stands as a testament to the resilience and determination of South African women in the fight against oppression and discrimination.

Founded by visionary leaders such as Ray Simons, Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi, and Amina Cachalia, FEDSAW emerged as the first broad-based women’s organization, bringing together women from diverse backgrounds and communities. At its founding conference, attended by 146 delegates representing 230,000 women across the nation, FEDSAW pledged unwavering support to the Congress Alliance’s overarching goals of equality and justice for all.

From its inception, FEDSAW championed the rights of women of all races, boldly advocating for full equality of opportunity, the removal of social, legal, and economic barriers, and the protection of women and children. The iconic “Women’s Charter,” crafted during FEDSAW’s inaugural conference, laid out a visionary blueprint for gender equality, demanding enfranchisement, equal employment opportunities, property rights, and access to education and childcare.

FEDSAW’s activism extended beyond rhetoric, spearheading massive protests against the oppressive pass laws that sought to further subjugate women. The courage and determination of FEDSAW members, exemplified by the historic marches on the Union Buildings in 1955 and 1956, shattered stereotypes and inspired generations of women to join the struggle for liberation.

Throughout the tumultuous years of the Treason Trial, FEDSAW remained steadfast in its support for the Congress Alliance, rallying behind detained leaders and their families. Despite facing persecution and imprisonment, FEDSAW members such as Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Annie Silinga, and Francis Baard stood resolute in their commitment to justice and equality.

As we commemorate the launch of FEDSAW, we reaffirm our commitment to upholding its legacy of courage, resilience, and solidarity. Let us honour the sacrifices of those who came before us by continuing the struggle for a South Africa where all women are truly free and equal.

In the words of ANCWL President Cde Sisisi Tolashe, “The legacy of FEDSAW serves as a guiding light for our ongoing struggle for gender equality and social justice. Today, we honour the brave women who laid the foundation for our liberation and recommit ourselves to the unfinished work of building a more just and equitable society for all.”

Lastly, we are also pleased to announce that we will be hosting a symposium in Nelson Mandela Region, in the Eastern Cape, this coming Sunday on 21 April 2024 to commemorate the Women’s Charter. Under the theme “70 Years Later: Reflections on the Women’s Charter and its Influence on South Africa’s Democracy,” the symposium will feature esteemed panelists including former ANCWL Presidents, the 1st Deputy Secretary General of the ANC Cde Nomvula Mokonyane, and the Presidency of the ANCWL. We invite you to join us as we reflect on the journey of women’s rights and celebrate the enduring impact of the Women’s Charter on our nation’s democracy. More details about the symposium will be made available in due course.


Comrade Nokuthula Nqaba
ANCWL Secretary General

For Enquiries

Comrade Sarah Mokwebo
ANCWL Media Liaison