Monica Clarke-Bennett

Survivor of Apartheid helping women find their voice

The beginning of Monica’s journey as Writer and Storyteller started that first night in detention, sitting on the floor in a police cell surrounded by noise and despair. As the clanging of cell doors opening and closing reverberated through her confused head, watching other women being roughly pushed into that small cell with dreams as broken as hers, Monica woke up to her own strength and vowed to tell her own story.

Sitting on the cement floor in that cell amongst those women, some of them moaning, others screaming through their pain to break out of worlds of drugs and alcohol, others quietly sitting in prayer, Monica vowed to tell her own story, to include those of others, so that together they might sooth the rawness of their mutual suffering.

Only in her twenties at that time, that night she became determined, for as long as it takes (and it took 25 years) as an activist in the underground liberation movement, and many more detentions until she left South Africa as a political asylum seeker and settled in the UK.

Professionally Monica started out as a nurse and midwife (Somerset Hospital Midwife of the Year 1963. After qualifying as a lawyer she entered commercial law and then was head-hunted by the National Health Service (NHS), UK, as Associate Director, specialising in engagement and inclusion.

After a short stint as a commercial lawyer, Monica was head-hunted by the National Health Service (NHS) UK to help with them develop their strategy for engagement and inclusion.

In 2012, as part of the Celebration of Women, Monica won the Award "A Woman of Action". Then she had the honour of sharing her story with Cherry and Tony Blair at No 10 Downing Street, and subsequently was presented to the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace for services to the Princess Royal Trust Carers’ Association, UK. She continues as an Alumni 2020 Fellow, Gratitude Network (Forbes).

Now retired, Monica continues to tell her story from public platforms to help others tell theirs. She collaborates with the Liliesleaf Trust UK which draws on the legacy of the UK’s Movement against Apartheid (MAA) exploring and responding to lived experiences of race-based injustices to imagine new futures.

With a full portfolio of writings, Monica invites others to  “Join Monica’s Tribe” and tell their stories to ensure inclusion for those less able to do so.

Read the story of a woman's journey, To Have Not, to Hold (2023) Europe Books, based on Monica's life-story as a midwife delivering babies whilst carrying banned materials for the liberation movement in her nurse’s bag in the townships of South Africa.

Use of IWD Speakers Directory is at user discretion.
IWD Speakers are not endorsed. Information is provided by the speaker or their agency.

IWD Event Packs pre orders
IWD Toolkit
IWD Light Up
Where Women Work

Join the global IWD Community