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Love and Courage

9 September 2007

Pregs Govender’s memoir, Love and Courage: a story of Insubordination, is a remarkable and inspirational read. It has kept me captivated and enthralled from opening it 2 days ago. I find myself snatching a moment, wherever possible, to read more. And now I am blogging about it! It is evocative and beautifully written and Pregs shares her life’s experiences with readers in an engaging and honest way.

Loudastress writes a very good review of Love and Courage which is worth referring to.

I had heard often of and been inspired by Pregs Govender and her feminist strivings and activism over the years. What I remembered though most recently was hearing of her quitting Parliament. At the time I pondered on the reasons for her quitting and was saddened at the loss of such a fervent advocator for women’s issues and one of the shining beacons in our newly elected Parliament. During this time she advocated for improving the rights of women and chaired Parliament’s joint Standing Committee on the Quality of Life and Status of Women. She was one of the first ANC MP’s to call for antiretrovirals to be provided to HIV positive pregnant women. She was a stauch advocator for the rights of women and children, especially around issues of HIV/Aids. Prior to joining Parliament she served on the Women’s National Coalition and was very active in the labour movement and in education.

I was reminded of her departure from Parliament in reading in Love and Courage the detail of how over the years she has stood up to authority and the voice of patriachy within all spheres of life, from the party to the factory floors, in the classrooms she taught in to the trade unions she contributed to developing, and within her own Indian culture and community.

I needed to find out more about this courageous women. An internet search yielded some results but not as many as I had anticipated. Perhaps the role now of activist, writer and researcher places her less in the public eye. However I am sure that Love and Courage will do much to remind South Africans of the remarkable courage and conviction of this outstpoken feminist. Perhaps this memoir might also create more opportunities for her to play a more active role in shaping the future for South African women.

In her words….
“We live and speak no longer conscious of our wholeness,
Our connectedness
We have begun to believe we are fragments
That our stories are disconnected from each other’s
So often we have sat silently
With our grief, our pain, our horror, our anger,
Our hopelessness, our despair
At how successfully
We have been disembodied
We no longer hear our own voices
We no longer see our own faces

I know that in our hearts
We cannot have forgotten who we are
In our hearts
We cannot rubbish our collective dream and vision
And the love that inspired courage across our land Against the hate and fear of apartheid’s patriarch
Who aimed to destroy not just our communities
But our very sense of self

Today is another battle we face
Both men and women
With the patriarch within our minds
Who holds captive our hearts, our souls
His power of fear and hate
His hierarchies of exclusion and silence
His memory of forgetting

It is time to reclaim ourselves
So collectively we can reclaim our power of love and courage
It is time for all of us
Women and girls and the men and boys who love us
And whom we love
To subvert the patriarch in our minds
In our homes
In our churches, temples and mosques
In our workplaces
In all our institutions
In our country”

(Pregs Govender, Opening speech in Parliament, Women’s Day, 8 March 2002)

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