Celebrating Women of Substance

Dr Sophie De Bruyn – ‘Leading through the head, heart and hands’

She led the Women’s March to the Union Buildings in 1956 and is the only surviving leader of the historical event. In 1999, Dr De Bruyn was awarded the Ida Mntwana Award in Silver. In 2001, she was the first to be awarded the Women’s Award for exceptional national service and in the same year received the Mahatma Gandhi Award. She is currently a provincial legislator in Gauteng Province for the ANC. Dr De Bruyn is by far one of South Africa’s leading women of substance and is truly leading with the head, heart and hands. We salute her!

She hails from “Africa’s Garden of Eden,” Limpopo, Ha-Masia village in Vhembe District Municipality. In her recently published book, Shudu Finds Her Magic, which she published in partnership with Miss South Africa, Musida tells an inspiring tale of how she overcame her sadness and some of life’s difficulties, from childhood, being a teenage girl and becoming a woman who has learned to love herself.

There’s so much to write about Dr Sophie de Bruyn that no amount of paper can ever be sufficient. Born in 1938 in Villageboard, a mixed area that had different nationalities living side by side, she was raised in the home of her grandparents with her older brother and sister. Her work started at Van Lane Textile factory where employees singled her out to solve their problems with factory bosses. Later on, she became a shop steward and increased her involvement in representing and articulating the grievances of the workers. At the textile factory, she grew through the ranks to become an executive member of the Textile Workers Union in Port Elizabeth working alongside people like Raymond Mhlaba, the late Vuyisile Mini and Govan Mbeki amongst others.

Dr De Bruyn became the founder member of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), which is the predecessor of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). Her trade union work interacted with mainstream political movements of the day, such as the African National Congress (ANC). The Congress Alliance (Indian Congress and the ANC) at the time was grappling with issues such as the Group Areas Act, Separate Development Act and the Bantu Education Act. It was then that the ‘Coloured People’s Congress’ was formed. A renowned champion of mental healthcare, she launched her online mental health initiative #Mindful Mondays, in association with the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) and Discovery Vitality which she drives on her Instagram platform.