Google Doodle celebrates the life and legacy of Fatima Meer

Google is celebrating Durban born, South African, Fatima Meer with a Doodle. Born on August 12th 1928, Fatima was the second of nine children and obtained a Bachelors and a Masters degree in sociology from the Universities of Witwatersrand and Natal respectively. She later served as a professor at the University of Natal from 1956 until 1988, where she was the first woman of colour to be in the role at a designated-white South African University. 

Fatima’s passion for change and equality showed early on in her life, when, while a student at Durban Indian Girls’ high school, she facilitated and led the Student Passive Resistance Committee with the purpose of supporting the Indian community’s Passive Resistance Campaign against new legislation that aimed to limit the land rights of Indians in South Africa.

Some of Fatima’s vast notable political activities and achievements include her involvement in founding the Durban and District Women’s League in 1949 – the first women’s organization that included Indian and African members. Furthermore, she was amongst those banned under the new Suppression of Communism Act for a period of three years in 1952, confined to the district of Durban. This stopped her from attending all public gatherings and banned her work from being published.

In 1955, she became a founding member of the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW), responsible for organizing the famous Anti-Pass March on the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956 and in 1975 she was banned again for five years – being arrested in 1976 and imprisoned for six months. 

Fatima also had a passion for education. This materialized through her starting of Phambili High School for African students in 1986 and the Khanyisa School Project as a bridging programme for African children from rural areas in 1993. Fatima also founded the Khanya Women’s Skills Training Centre in 1996, training over 150 African women every year in pattern-cutting, sewing, business management and adult literacy.

With the rise of democracy in South Africa in 1994, Fatima declined having a seat in the parliament, choosing to work with civil-society organizations, aiding the poor and leading thought around interracial understanding. She was also the founding member of Jubilee South Africa, part of the Jubilee 2000 movement, which campaigned for the cancellation of the debts of developing countries.

Fatima was married to Ismail C. Meer, a prominent leader in South Africa’s Indian community and was also close friends with the Mandela family. Fatima was involved in the creation of over forty books, some as author, some as editor and some as the publisher. 

Her legacy remains and she will long be remembered as a pioneer in women’s rights as well as fighting for equality under the apartheid regime and beyond.

A note from Fatima Meer’s Family

We are very pleased that our mother is being honored with this doodle, and it is our hope that remembering her in this way will inspire new generations of activists.

Our mother is well known for the fearless way in which she engaged in the struggle against apartheid. She engaged in direct activism as well as through her academic teaching and writing. Her activism started when as a teenager and still at school in 1946, she made her first speech at a political rally against racist laws. Despite being banned in the 1950s, imprisoned by the apartheid government for a few months in 1976, and having her home petrol bombed in 1977 and 1985, she was undeterred in her resistance against the injustices of apartheid. 

Unhappy with the continued economic hardship experienced by the majority of South Africans in the post-apartheid South Africa she continued her fearless struggle against oppression and for freedom and dignity. She worked with community groups resisting evictions and disconnections of their water and electricity supplies, this time challenging her comrades and friends in the governing party of the country. She said in the early 2000’s.

“We have to be in the process of perpetual revolution to progress and guarantee the rights of people. There can be no peacetime so long as there is poverty and hunger and so long as basic human rights are trodden. The cause of rampant crime in our country is inequality. We are the second most unequal country in the world. More than half the population lives in poverty. Can we call this living in peace? The definition of peace is equity, harmony, not starvation. I believe we need to strengthen the numerous community based organizations in our country and increase the voices of civil society”

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