Sophia Theresa Williams-De Bruyn, an anti-apartheid activist, was conferred the title of Doctor Honoris Causa of Law at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), during the 2021 virtual graduation ceremonies. Ms Williams-De Bruyn was made an honorary doctor in recognition of her commitment to the struggle of equality and women’s rights, paving the way for ordinary women to make their voices heard.
Accepting the distinction, Ms Williams-De Bruyn said in part, “I challenge you today to push pause and reset our educational, economical and health systems as well as environmental policies. If we are smart we will do this and expect our educational institutions to lead the way to produce research and propose strategies of new systems that will enable us to deal with four pandemics including the Corona Virus, the pandemic of racism , the economic collapse and looming environmental catastrophe’s.
In the Laudation, UJ’s Prof Wesahl Domingo, Executive Dean: Faculty of Law said: “In Sophia Williams-De Bruyn we have a national icon and champion of human rights and female equality worthy of veneration. Her efforts resonated in the improvement of the living conditions of the people of South Africa. In the current context of the continued debate on and struggle for the empowerment of women in the workplace, politics and social interactions, Sophia Williams-De Bruyn’s contribution to the empowerment and the rights of women resonate both locally and globally. Her status in South African society as a political activist and champion of women’s rights is nothing short of iconic.
The citation also made reference to her eventful life, at the tender age of 18 years, Ms Williams-De Bruyn was the youngest of the brave women leading the march. It was the first time that women of all races united for freedom and equality against the oppressive laws. Today she is the only remaining living leader who took part in this historic event.
During her lifetime, she has been honoured with various prestigious awards. These include the Ida Mntwana Award in Silver for exceptional service rendered to the women of South Africa which were awarded in 1999, the 2001 Women’s Award for exceptional national service, as well as the Mahatma Gandhi Award for her extraordinary contribution to the establishment of democracy in South Africa) in 2001.