Why We Care.org

I was born in Clermont, Durban, in Natal (now KwaZulu- Natal), in South Africa. My mother was a community health nurse, specializing in family planning, and my father was a schoolteacher. Our family was Catholic, and there was always much discussion about the way that the church looked at the issues my mother was facing in her work, issues of reproductive rights and family planning. My mother was determined to make a difference and express her opinion, and she was my first exposure to activism.

She has also been an inspiration to me my whole life. She is in her eighties now, and she still works running the St. Clement’s home- based Care Project, helping families of people with HIV/AIDS. Every day she is an angel of mercy to hundreds of indigent and sick people. Each day, she and her small staff cook and distribute food parcels and meals to hundreds of needy victims of poverty and diseases.

Women’s rights are human rights. We have not done much to empower women who are on the margins of society. I saw this when I started out in politics. I recognized the importance of focusing on rural development in empowering women. I saw how even a small act – like teaching a group of women how to sew clothes and to sell them, forming a crafts association, as we did in Gugulethu – made a huge impact on their lives.

From an early age, I was aware of the world far beyond the walls of our house – from the apartheid under which we struggled to the hunger and poverty I witnessed in my neighborhood. We were living in a country that had so much, yet when I went to school, as one of the children fortunate to be able to bring my lunch with me, I saw my schoolmates who did not have enough to eat, who were hungry. I remember thinking to myself that this sort of thing shouldn’t happen in South Africa. I did not have the vocabulary to express the inequality that I saw, but I knew it was there. I recognized that I must share the food that I was lucky to have with my classmates – who had nothing. And the deprivation that I saw – in the context of the rich country that we lived in – angered me. It angered – and it inspired.