the country readies itself to observe Emancipation celebrations
on Tuesday, one of the highlights many are anticipating
is Miriam Makeba in concert.
Considered the empress of African song, Makeba has won over
audiences far and wide with songs such as Pata Pata and
the Click song.
But as writer Attillah Springer wrote in last weeks
edition of WomanWise, she was not just known for her music,
but her stance against apartheid and racism. Wife of Trinidadian
revolutionary Stokeley Carmichael, she was banned from South
Africa and had her shows and recording contracts cancelled
in the United States following her betrothal. Still, she
continued her message of peace, winning awards such as the
1986 Dag Hammerskjold Peace Prize.
But while women like Makeba and talk show icon Oprah Winfrey
stands out among black women as having made a difference
and continuing to do so in the world, there are others who
are making their marks quietly.
One of them is this weeks profilee, Dr Shireen Lewis
Originally from Fyzabad, Lewis is the founder of SisterMentors,
an organisation created to support women of colour who are
working towards their PhDs.
The first black woman to graduate with a PhD in French from
Duke University in the United States, Lewis realised that
as a doctoral student, she needed help.
Together with three other women, she formed SisterMentors
to help other female doctoral students who were finding
the long process difficult.
2003, out of 50.6 per cent of women doctorates, only 10.6
per cent went to women of colour African American,
Latina, Asian American and Native American combined,
said Lewis. The appalling figures, she pointed out, show
how poorly American universities have done in trying to
enrol and keep women of colour in the doctoral programmes.
Many women who attempt to do their PhDs, she said, also
juggle full-time careers and family, which makes the process
So far, SisterMentors has helped 25 women to graduate with
their PhDs and some of them have gone on to work in non-profit
organisations, giving back to society.
But Lewis organisation has gone beyond just helping
women to get degrees. The group also mentors young girls
of colour, to encourage them to pursue a college education.
The girls selected are from poor families and families with
no history of anyone attending college.
Lewis story is one of giving hope, of encouraging
excellence and motivating women to reach for the stars,
in spite of the obstacles.
Motivated by her own desire to always excel after she left
high school, one subject short of a full certificate, she
is helping to change the world, one educated woman at a