Mary Sithole became a TSSA rep for c2c in 2011. She has been TSSA treasurer since July 2023, becoming the first black woman to do so. In this blog for Black History Month, she talks about the women that have inspired her and why it’s so important to recognise the silent heroes at home.
The theme of Black History Month 2023, ‘Saluting our Sisters’, is very significant. We need to celebrate our sisters every day, not just during Black History Month, because women have played a significant role in history, be it in the UK, be it in Africa. And we’re not celebrated enough.
My grandmother and my mother - Diana and Eltinah - are the most significant women in my life. I wouldn’t be who I am without them. It’s the values that they’ve taught me and instilled in me as a child and as I’ve been growing up.
My grandmother has passed on now, but the amount of life skills she taught me while I was growing up, nobody can ever take those away from me. I became the passionate fighter I am today because of her. She was a single parent and looked after my mother, who also became a single parent. So when we were growing up, it was the two of them joining forces to make sure that they gave us the best opportunities in life.
One of the things that they taught us was how respect is so important in the course of your life. Because if you give respect, you get respect back. They brought us up to have integrity, and with the importance of doing the right thing - even if nobody else is looking.
In my house, it was never just the central family. There was always somebody coming over, and you welcome them into your home and give them that hospitality. That’s how life should be. That kindness should be extended everywhere in life. I think if everybody lived with those principles, we would be in a very healthy and peaceful world. But it’s not always the case.
When I became the TSSA’s first black female treasurer, my grandmother had sadly already passed. But my mum, she was immensely proud. She’s always proud of me as a daughter. She understands that I’m not perfect and she still gives me guidance. But she was immensely proud of the achievement and she told me to carry out the job with integrity and honesty.
She’s an amazing mother, and an amazing grandmother. I think without her I wouldn’t have had my four children, because it’s difficult raising children - especially in this country. But she was there, and she supported me in every way. She made it possible for me to go to work, she made it possible for me to attend university. She helped me realise my dreams. I couldn’t ask for a better mother.
So that’s why this Black History Month, I want people to recognise the role mothers play in people’s lives. Parents are out there doing their utmost best to provide for their children. We should be more supportive of those families that are going through that difficult time.
It’s difficult for most women - not just black women - to balance their work life and home life. It’s really hard. Especially for those single mothers who are out there trying. If we recognise that their role is significant and important, then they will feel elevated and appreciated.
If, in celebrating Black History Month, we start at home, then I think we can achieve a lot more.