Gertrude Ntiti Shope

Gertrude Shope. Department of International Relations and Cooperation
Gertrude Shope. Department of International Relations and Cooperation

Unionist | Politician | Human Rights Activist

Born: 15 August 1925

“Every generation has got a responsibility to know what its mission is. Mine was to liberate the country; what is yours?”

Who is
Gertrude Ntiti Shope?

Head of the Women’s Section of the African National Congress (ANC), she re-established the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) inside South Africa after 1990 and was elected its first President.

and Roles

Trade unionist, politician, member of Parliament, anti-apartheid activist, and teacher.

Best Known For

Anti-apartheid activities and leadership within the Federation of South African Women (FEDSAW) and the ANC Women’s Section.

Life highlights

  • Shope was trained as a teacher but left this career as part of the campaign to boycott Bantu Education.
  • From 1958 until 1966, Shope was the Chairperson of the Central Western Jabavu Branch of FEDSAW.
  • In 1965, Shope was elected Secretary of FEDSAW in the Transvaal Province.
  • In 1966, Shope went into exile, joining her husband in 1967 in the then Czechoslovakia where he was the representative of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU).
  • In 1971, she moved with her family to Tanzania, where she worked in the office of the Women’s Section of the ANC until she left for Zambia in 1972.
  • In Zambia she was appointed the Chief Representative of the ANC, being amongst the first women to be given this level of responsibility in the history of the movement.
  • In 1981, the ANC Women’s Section held its first conference in the external mission and she was appointed as its Head and also appointed to the National Executive Committee of the ANC.
  • In 1987, at the second conference, she was elected Head of the ANC Women’s Section again.
  • In 1990, she led the team tasked with re-establishing the ANCWL inside the country and was elected its first President at the 1992 Conference in Kimberley.
  • She served in the first Parliament of a free and democratic South Africa from 1994 until her retirement in 1999.


“Every generation has got a responsibility to know what its mission is. Mine was to liberate the country; what is yours?”

– Gertrude Shope


“The Women’s Section of the ANC, in close collaboration with the Federation of South African Women, an organisation which unites women of all races in South Africa, started mobilising women throughout the country to take a bold stand. They mobilised all the women – workers, peasants and housewives of all racial groups. Their determination borne out of anger united them even more. Their resolve was firm. I quote: ‘We shall not rest until we have won for our children freedom, justice and security’.”

– Gertrude Shope


“Mam Shope remains the symbol of women struggles and their resilience over time. She has and remains a living symbol of a breed of women activists who knew nothing but a bitter struggle for a better society.”

– ANC Department of Information and Publicity, 2019

While in exile, Shope lived in various places including Botswana, Tanzania, Czechoslovakia, Zambia, and Nigeria.


Audio Visual

President Mandela gives his State of the Nation address in Parliament. Mandela ends his address with the words, “Let us all get down to work”.

“We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political and the human rights of all our citizens.”– President Mandela, extract from State of the Nation Address, 24 May 1994

President Nelson Mandela announces his cabinet. It includes members of the African National Congress, National Party and Inkatha Freedom Party.

“There was pride in serving in the first democratic government in South Africa, and then the additional pride of serving under the iconic leadership of Nelson Mandela … [He] represented the hopes of not just our country, but of oppressed, marginalised and the poor in the world.”– Jay Naidoo, then Minister of RDP housing
“We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.”– President Nelson Mandela, 10 May 1994