January 16, 2023 marked the end of our time with an incredible woman, domestic worker, unionist, and president of the International Domestic Workers Federation (IDWF), Myrtle Witbooi. Not only has Myrtle changed the lives of those who crossed paths with her, but she also undoubtedly changed the conditions of domestic workers in South Africa and the world.
Myrtle first became the voice of the movement in South Africa, soon after she moved from her town of Genadendal to Cape Town at age 17 to work as a domestic worker. Experiencing blatant injustice first hand, she worked on liberation plights as a woman and a domestic worker under South Africa’s apartheid. With an innate drive for social justice and intrinsic leadership skills, she started organizing workers in the garage of her employer’s house. At the time, organizing domestic workers was deemed illegal by the apartheid state. Nonetheless, Myrtle’s efforts grew nationwide when she established the South Africa Domestic Workers Union (SADWU) and joined the African National Congress resistance movement.