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Helen Suzman
Stories of inspiration from Smart Girl Stories across the globe. Helen Suzman: A Woman of Courage and Influence

Helen Suzman: A Woman of Courage and Influence

Helen Suzman was a true inspiration for women all over the world. Her life was characterized by a strong sense of courage, determination, and a relentless spirit to fight social inequality. Alongside the likes of Nelson Mandela, she played a key role in ending apartheid in South Africa and became a well-respected politician who fearlessly stood for her beliefs. In this blog post, we shall delve into her life story and the remarkable accomplishments she achieved during her lifetime.

Helen Suzman – Early Years

Helen Suzman was born in 1917 in South Africa. She was the daughter of Samuel Gavronsky, who was a successful Jewish businessman. Despite the privileges of her upbringing, her psyche was shaped by the cruel practices of apartheid that surrounded her. As a student, she vowed to make a difference in the world and became a fierce opponent of apartheid policies. In 1953, she was elected to parliament, serving for thirty-six years. During this time, she fought for civil rights and was a vocal critic against the government’s oppressive policies.


One of Helen’s greatest accomplishments was her fight against the Pass Laws, which forced black South Africans to carry identification documents at all times. She often risked her own safety to visit political prisoners and was jailed several times for speaking out against apartheid. Her unwavering determination helped elevate the cause of human rights and civil liberties in South Africa and the world.

Despite facing constant harassment and discrimination from her male counterparts in Parliament, Helen Suzman continued to make a difference. Her voice not only gave hope to marginalized groups but also made an impact internationally. In 1964, she travelled to London to speak out against apartheid policies. She received international attention for her bravery and received numerous honors, including 27 honorary degrees from universities worldwide.


In 1975, Helen Suzman became the only member of Parliament to oppose the passing of the Terrorism Act. She challenged the government’s abuse of power, speaking out against the brutality and violence that South Africans faced daily. In recognition of her service to South Africa, she was awarded the Order of Merit in 1989 by Queen Elizabeth II. She was also a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, working closely with the former president and other notable anti-apartheid activists.

Helen Suzman’s Legacy

Helen Suzman died in 2009 at the age of 91 but remained a beacon of hope for generations to come. Her life and work are a testament to the influence one person can have on the world. She taught us that the lessons of the past can provide the guiding principles for the future. She remains a true hero to countless individuals who looked up to her courage, strength, and compassion. In many ways, Helen Suzman’s legacy continues to inspire and lead us towards a world that is fair, just, and equal for all.

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Founder, Smart Girl, Survivor, Champion of womens rights and kids rights


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