Shamima Shaikh (37) Muslim women activist, journalist and campaigner for gender equality, lost her long battle against cancer recently.
Shamima was former editor of Al-Qalam, the Muslim Youth Movement-owned newspaper and one of the founders of the Johannesburg-based Muslim radio station The Voice. She was Chairperson of the community broadcast trust that owns the station. Shamima launched her battle for human rights and gender equality in 1978 as a student activist at the University of Durban-Westville.
In those days it was unthinkable for indian women, let alone Muslim women from conservative homes to take to the streets with pamphlets and plackards calling for consumer and other boycotts.
"It was clear to me that the voteless opressed could not be liberated by remaining conservative and docile. And women were part of the voteless opressed. Action was needed, for it was louder than words," she recollected in an interview a week ago before taking a turn for the worst.
In 1992, Shamima shocked the fundamental religious Muslim establishment which she believed discriminated against women by barring them from praying with men in the mosque. She lead a group of women into the Pageview, Johannesburg Mosque to pray.
Some male worshippers threatened the protesters, but they stayed put.
The protest led to a number of mosques, run by liberal-minded trustees and heavily patronised by students eventually opening their doors to women worshippers in seperate prayer areas. It was a victory for Shamima and her muslim feminist activists.