Female voices from exile

08 August 2012 | Story by Newsroom

Prodigal daughtersBack from exile: Assoc Prof Gonda Perez (right) and her sister Carmel Chetty tell their stories of exile in the book Prodigal Daughters.

Recalling the fear, isolation and loneliness of living in exile was the last thing Associate Professor Gonda Perez, deputy dean of UCT's Faculty of Health Sciences, wanted to do.

This, however, is exactly what she had to do to tell her story of exile, which is included in the book Prodigal Daughters: Stories of SA women in exile. Perez and her sister Carmel Chetty remembered their lives as refugees in Botswana and beyond at the launch of the book on Wednesday, which was part of health science's Women's Day celebration.

"One of the things I don't feel comfortable about speaking is exile," said Perez in opening her talk. "No one in their right mind takes the decision to leave their home, family, country to go into exile lightly."

One of the benefits of having been in exile was the education she got, she reported. "We soon realised the deficits of the apartheid education system when we got to African universities. We had to work hard to catch up and then keep up with the rest of the class in early years."

Perez appealed to South Africans to, in their dealings with refugees in this country, "please think of the experiences of those of us who have lived outside our country as stateless beings".

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