Shawn Slovo’s address at our tenth annual review function, held on Wednesday 23 October 2019, brought Ruth First alive for our girls and our wider trust community. Speaking of the trauma of losing her mother in the prime of her life, Shawn held the audience captivated with her recollections and reflections of Ruth the person, and the meaning of these in 2019.
“Ruth made brave and bold choices. She chose to be a journalist because she felt that was the best and only way to bring the horror, cruelty and barbarism of apartheid to the attention of the general public.
“She was generous, compassionate, glamourous and the hardest-working person I have ever known. The sound of her Hermes typewriter at work was the soundtrack to our lives growing up. She bequeathed to us three sisters a love of reading and writing and through example, taught us the importance of engaging with the world, of speaking out about injustice, of standing up for what you believe. Ruth, and our father Joe Slovo were no martyrs to the cause so to speak but were living the life, engaged and absorbed by the fight against apartheid.
“What would she have said today about the scourge of gender-based violence? She would be very vocal; of that we can be sure! Speculating, I think she would have said that what is important is that gender-based violence is now recognized as unacceptable and abhorrent, and that steps are being taken to address this problem. So how do we adjust our society to achieve full equality for women? Recognising the diversity of culture in the country, she would have made the point that culture is not static. It has to adapt and change with time.
“What has changed since her death is that the doors are finally opening for all to walk through and reach for their dreams as they are entitled to do. You are a fortunate group of young women who can walk through that door with your head held high knowing that whatever choices you make are made by you and not somebody else. You have the Constitution and Laws to enable you to achieve your ambitions.”
Powerful, succinct, inspirational words: what a privilege to have Shawn in our midst.
Pictured above are Zenadene Lazarus, one of the first four Ruth First scholarship recipients and Ketsia Kalombo, the one hundredth recipient. The fourteen scholarship recipients for 2020 were presented at the Annual Review Function and their speeches on youth activists were outstanding. We look forward to welcoming them to Jeppe Girls in January 2020. Zenadene is in her Honours year of Construction Management at Wits.