JAY NAIDOO, FORMER GENERAL SECRETARY OF COSATU, NOW CHAIR OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND CHAIR OF THE PARTNERSHIP COUNCIL OF THE GLOBAL ALLIANCE FOR IMPROVED NUTRITION Three South African women you admire? Bakkium Naidoo, my mother, who taught me the values of compassion, honesty and service to family and community. Albertina Sisulu. Her life was a role model of selfless commitment to country, people and family. Lucie Pagé, my wife, who made me a better human being and gave me the beautiful gift of three wonderful children. Words to live by? Live in the present. Live with passion. Learn from the past and let the future take care of itself.
Best piece of advice given to you by a woman? From Lucie: ‘Educate a man and you educate an individual. Educate a woman and you educate a society.’ How do democracy and feminism work together? Democracy can only exist when the rights of women are realised. Feminism is a human right. It is a relationship based on mutual respect and equality. Democracy today means … accountability and transparency by those in power to create pathways of hope and opportunity for future generations. If you could wish for one thing for your daughter on her 21st, what would it be? That she is confident about who she is and starts the journey to find her meaning in life. How did you celebrate your 21st? A party was organised for me but I was in no mood for a party. I was confused and angry and felt caught in a corner. I was frustrated that my human dignity had been stolen by apartheid.
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I felt inferior to whites and trapped by a system that had made my parents slaves in the land of their birth. What was the most exciting part? Something had to break. Steve Biko was my catalyst. He never gave us a business plan. He gave us a political cause, which gave me the confidence to channel my anger into the struggle for freedom. How has your life changed since then? I have had the privilege of being part of one of the greatest struggles against racism in the 20th century. I worked with some of the most extraordinary leaders in the world, from shop stewards and workers to leaders of the stature of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Today, I have no aspiration to be in business or politics. I want to be part of an inter-generational conversation that supports the future generation. Do you think women are better off now than they were 21 years ago, socially and economically? Our Constitution outlaws discrimination on the basis of gender. I see the steady erosion of these constitutional rights by a creeping traditionalism and patriarchy in our country. Women’s rights and protection against gender violence have to be defended and fought for every day. The most fun thing you’ve done since your 21st is … climbing Kilimanjaro with my son, Kami.