"We must confess we allowed patriarchy to oppress you," president of the ANC Women's League Bathabile Dlamini said at the state funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
"We allowed the media and apartheid imperialism to define who you are," she said during her speech at the service at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
"Today women don't have their own history and struggle credentials," said Dlamini.
She said women are either referred to as someone's wife or as someone's ex-wife.
In the run-up to last year's ANC elective conference, Dlamini campaigned for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and the Women's League decried the descriptions of Dlamini-Zuma in terms of being former president Jacob Zuma's ex-wife.
"uMama Winnie did not set herself apart from the people," Dlamini said.
"uMama Winnie was a true icon."
She said young women must aspire to be president of this country.
"We will never stop calling for a woman president until we have a woman president!" she said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa with Zenani Mandela-Dlamini and Zindzi Mandela at Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's funeral in Orlando Stadium on Saturday. (GCIS)
After her Sipho Hotstix Mabuse performed, and then ANC national chairperson Gwede Mantashe took to the podium, even though he wasn't on the initial programme released on Friday.
He said the ANC leaders were told not to use funerals for political statements.
"It's for mourning," he said.
He said the funeral was a "celebratory send-off of a great leader of the ANC".
"We are sending off a leader of the people," Mantashe said.
"We are sending off a friend of the working class.
"The spirit of Mama Winnie must unite the ANC," he said.
He added that with the "new dawn" - a phrase associated with President Cyril Ramaphosa's presidency - the ANC will be united.
"Comrade Winnie's spirit must continue to be omnipresent."
Mantashe was followed by British supermodel Naomi Campbell, who said she first met Madikizela-Mandela and Nelson Mandela in New York in 1990.
She said she was "rightly the mother of this nation", but she was much more than that.
"She was a heroine, of a whole continent, a courageous symbol of resistance for all of us. She was the eyes and ears of the world during those dark days," she said.
"Without her, we wouldn't know anything of grandpa's [Nelson Mandela] struggles, and what he was going through.
"She was always striving for equality, and to keep South Africa at the forefront of people's thoughts."
Denis Sassou Nguesso, president of the Republic of Congo, said his country had lost a model and source of inspiration.
"The unforgettable image of her fighting for freedom and human dignity will remain in our hearts," he said.
Namibian president Hage Geingob greeted the mourners with a cry of "Amandla!".
"What distinguished her from her peers [is] that Comrade Winnie never elevated her[self] above the people," he said.
"She remained rooted to the people of South Africa."