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Now in its twelfth year, the Voices of Women Museum (VoWM) established by Voices of Women is a small but significant initiative featuring narratives and textiles, exhibitions, concepts, and ideas by, for, and of women. The body of work forms a collective voice of untold stories and women less heard; and is situated within the grand historical and collective narrative that has often omitted this feminine perspective.

The museum hosts a collection of women’s narratives gathered over many years, initially as the Amazwi Abesifazane project that later became the substantial collection for the museum, which has grown ever since.

Our South African democracy is almost 30 years in existence – one that sought to acknowledge all its citizens – equally. “Within this context, we have been able to reflect on who we are; and on our contributions to this vision where women are recognised as equal in all spheres.” says Coral Bijoux, curator and director for the VoWM.

Bijoux continues, “through these living records (the VoW archive) we also recognise the challenges inherent in the narrative of diversity and issues of representation; while acknowledging the vast schisms that still exist between us (gender, race, culture, class). Recognising that an important element in a transforming society is to know ourselves; and to grow through our many challenges. Listening to each other brings us closer to this transformative outcome; knowing that each person has a story to tell. Women, however, have often kept the most hurtful stories to themselves perhaps for fear of embarrassment, shame, denigration, or some form of backlash. Thus, as VoW, we value the work we do where we continue to share our stories until they are respectfully heard. The individual and collective voice that emerges from the Voices of Women Museum archive offers an opportunity to acknowledge past (and present) pain and trauma because it is that which carries information about ourselves and will help us to heal”.

Notably, during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) campaign in 2023, President Ramaphosa acknowledged that ending patriarchy was the only way to end GBV. As such, the MTN SA Foundation and VoWM, through their partnership in highlighting the stories of South Africa’s women, are doing their part in putting action to those words.

Niel Nortje, Manager of the MTN Art Collection says that “this project is the culmination of a longstanding partnership with the Voices of Women Museum through an annual endowment; enabling the VoWM to do its integral work in situating the museum in virtual space.” Nortje continues, “the Voices of Women Museum can now enter the digital platform aligned with MTN’s Ambition 2025 strategy to find digital and technological solutions that educate a broad audience on South Africa’s art, culture, and heritage while participating in the sector’s contribution towards gender studies, social cohesion, and acting against gender-based violence.”

“To a large extent, much of the work is done voluntarily, which makes this outcome so much more rewarding. In this phase of the project, we invite contributions to this living archive where storytelling, academic and creative writing, podcasts, and discussions by voices young and old, offer a platform to support this work,” says Bijoux.

The MTN SA Foundation and VoWM invites you to join them as they engage these multiple conversations, while celebrating the Voices of Women Virtual Museum, new website and the wonderful projects of the young women who have worked hard behind the scenes.

To be part of the online launch and continued conversation on Friday the 2 nd of February at 10h00am, RSVP here.

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