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The Inevitable Rise of the Shero Nation is your researched-based education that will help you to understand why gender inequality has always existed in our society, and how you are affected by it. It also offers real-world solutions to what we as Sheroes can do to eradicate this situation, leveling the playing field.
‘I’m a hustler’
Agnes was born in Vryheid, a small coal-mining town in the north of KwaZulu-Natal.
Across the country, there was a clear economic divide between races in the 1940s. Her dad cleaned trains for South African Railways and made “tea for his white bosses in the office”. Her mum was a “kitchen girl” who would wash, clean and cook for “privileged white families”.
“I was born from the poorest of the poor, my parents were labourers. They set a very good example for us,” says Agnes.
“We used to go to church every weekend. When I grew up, Catholics weren’t really allowed to divorce, even if I saw there were things that were not going well,” she adds. “I didn’t want to remarry or have my children to grow up without both parents at home – it’s all I’d known.”
Despite the challenges, Agnes saw her parents thrive by staying together and seeing their struggle made her determined to have a better life.
She trained as a nurse before marrying Gideon. Later, she started selling clothes from her home and took on a number of jobs to make ends meet.
“I soon found that I was all by myself, because my husband was in and out of our lives,” says Agnes, who had four children with him.
“I would come home from work and then start sewing, buying and selling clothes. I was doing so many things at the time because I was determined that my children would go to school,” she continues.
“I’m a hustler by nature, I’ve been hustling all my life. Instead of fighting for somebody to do things for me, I would do it for myself.”
For Agnes, the marriage took a clear downward spiral about nine years ago. After coming back from work one evening, she found Gideon had moved into the spare bedroom without explanation.
The couple continued to live under the same roof but led completely separate lives.
“We would bump into each other along the corridors, stairs or when parking and not say a word,” she recalls.
Agnes says Gideon never spoke to her about his plan to sell the house and “it was a shock to have people randomly show up at my home for a viewing”.
Realizing she could end up homeless, in early 2019 she filed an order citing financial abuse – arguing she had equally contributed to building their family and shared wealth.
Two years later, South Africa’s Constitutional Court confirmed an earlier High Court ruling that the existing laws had discriminated against black couples and black women in particular.
It ruled that all marriages before 1988 would be changed to “in community of property” – giving women equal property rights.
Agnes and her youngest daughter watched the verdict online from her bedroom. Initially, she didn’t realize she had won the case until her lawyer called her.
“We couldn’t figure out what was happening because of the [legal] terminology,” she says. “We were clueless the entire time. My stomach was in knots, I was scared but I had faith.
“I shed tears of joy. It dawned on me that we had saved thousands of women in marriages similar to mine,” says Agnes.
Agnes says she owes her fighting spirit to the many challenges she’s had to face on her own.
“It’s my character, who I am and it’s how I do things, I want to be self-reliant in every way,” she continues. “It’s definitely something rare in our culture and from women of my generation.
“For me, winning the case is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”
Agnes has even been able to forgive Gideon, who died from Covid-19 during the court case.
Two days before his death, he apologized to his wife and his daughters for how things had turned out.
Agnes later found out she had not only been left out of his will, but he had left the marital home to someone else. However, the court’s ruling superseded his wishes.
“We forgave him and I’m at peace. I regret nothing and most importantly I fulfilled my marriage [until the very end],” says Agnes.
“I didn’t want anything that was his but he wanted to take everything, including what I owned and worked for and that’s what I didn’t like.”