Google Doodle celebrates Durban born, South African, Fatima Meer with a Doodle. Fatima was born on 12 August 1928. She was the 2nd of 9 children and obtained a Bachelors and a Masters degree in sociology from the Universities of Witwatersrand and Natal. Throughout her life she authored over 40 books.
She later served as a professor at the University of Natal from 1956 to 1988, where she was the first woman of color to be in the role at a designated-white South African University.
Living for a Cause
Fatima’s passion for change and equality showed early on her life. While she was a students at Durban Indian Girls’ high school, she facilitated and led the Student Passive Resistance Committee with the purpose of supporting the Indian community’s Passive Resistance Campaign against new legislation. The campaign aimed to limit the land rights of Indians in South Africa.
Notable Political Activities
A few of Fatima’s notable political activities and achievements include her involvement in founding the Durban and District Women’s League in 1949 – the first women’s organization that included Indian and African members.
Furthermore, she was amongst those banned under the new Suppression of Communism Act for three years in 1952 and confined to Durban. This stopped her from attending public gatherings and she was banned from publishing her work.
Founder of the Federation of South African Women
In 1955, Fatima became the founding member of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW), responsible for organizing the famous Anti-Pass March on the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956 and in 1975 she was banned again for five years. She was arrested in 1976 and imprisoned for 6 months.
Her passion for education was demonstrated when she started the Phambili High School for African students in 198 and the Khanyisa School Project as a bridging programme for African children from rural areas in 1993.
Fatima also founded the Khanya Women’s Skills Training Centre in 1996, training over 150 African women every year in pattern-cutting, sewing, business management and adult literacy.
In 1994 at the rise of democracy in South Africa, Fatima declined having a seat in the parliament, choosing to work with civil-society organisations that aimed at helping the poor and leading thought around interracial understanding.
A Beacon of Hope for Women
Fatima was also the founding member of Jubilee South Africa, part of the Jubilee 2000 movement, which campaigned for the cancellation of the debts of developing countries. In addition to all these many accomplishments Fatima was also a family woman.
She was married to a Ismail C. Meer, a prominent leader in South Africa’s Indian community and was closely connect to the Mandela family.
In a note from her family her daughter wrote: “Our mother is well known for the fearless way in which she engaged in the struggle against apartheid. Despite being banned in the 1950s, imprisoned by the apartheid government in 1976, and having her home petrol bombed in 1977 and 1985, she was undeterred in her resistance against the injustices of apartheid.”
Her legacy remains and she will long be remembered as a pioneer in women’s rights as well as fighting for equality under the apartheid regime and beyond.