Leadership Manifesto: Sojourner Truth View


Sojourner Truth was was an African-American abolitionist (a movement that ended slavery in the USA) and women’s rights activist.

Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, in 1828 she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.

This is one of her inspiring speech she delivered in 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio:

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman?

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman?

I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman?

I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.

It remains true today as it was back then, you empower a woman, you empower a nation.

True leaders don’t see their female colleagues as lower level employees. True leaders don’t ask for undesirable favors in exchange for appoint her for that role or awarding her a project.

South Africa has one of the most progressive constitution in the world, but this constitution will mean nothing if leaders are unable to protect women and children.

In his TED talk Byran Stevenson says:

“the success of a country cannot be measured by how we treat the rich, the powerful, the privileged, and the respected among us. The true measure of our character as a country is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the disenfranchised, vulnerable and the condemned.”

With all its sophisticated economy, good infrastructure, banks, advanced constitution, amazing hospitality, these glitz and glamour means far less if South Africa remains a violent and angry society towards women and children.

The cost of violence (physical and emotional) against women are invisible wounds that remains long after the physical scars (where these exist) have healed. We can’t be having so many of our people walking wounded. We are wounding our future generations. This is not the legacy we want to leave.

Men who still do not understand my rant, here is what Maps Maponyane tweeted just to give you perspective:

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Real men and leaders treat women with dignity. Leaders don’t treat women like objects. A woman’s body does not define her worth. Leaders value women for far more than simply their bodies.

We need to disown violence everywhere (except in self-defence). Nothing is solved by violence. Violence breeds more violence. We cannot remain angry and violent towards women and children. Doing work that matters means protect the vulnerable.

Be present emotionally and physically, a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.

As Prof Pumla Dineo Gqola said in her book titled Rape – A South African Nightmare:

A future free of rape and violence is one we deserve, and one we must create.

Sojourner Truth was a remarkable woman, a game changer, a moonlight, a glow-in-the-dark.

Life is a hard battle anyway. If we laugh and sing a little as we fight the good fight of freedom, it makes it all go easier. I will not allow my life’s light to be determined by the darkness around me. — Sojourner Truth



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