By: Andiswa Machanyana
Frills are not an absolute necessity and they should be kept at that, an accessory nothing more nothing less. My day started at 05:00 slow as I usually am I managed to drop my son off at 06:30 at school regardless of his protest on how he hates the porridge from school and prefer my eggs instead, oblivious to his protest I kissed him good bye tailed by well wishes for the day. As I drove off I still felt like an inadequate mom, I should have been up at 4:30 instead that would have allowed me enough time to prepare his breakfast, arg it’s just one day I consoled myself as I made my way to Sandton meeting a client a 7:30 who had an 11:30 flight to catch back to Ghana but she wasn’t leaving without a few rudiments. Traffic better be good I need this sale. An hour later I am still stuck in traffic by now I have only an hour between Sandton and Kyalami where I had a 09:30 interview, how I wished super powers were real at that point.
“You really have a nice face, you could make a good receptionist, I could show you how the switchboard works it’s quite easy” I should have guessed an ending to this interview from when the ‘Tell me about yourself’ was immediately followed by a “what would you say is your greatest weakness?’ I should have known, while I sat there freezing my tongue from saying ‘right back at ya’, I decided to be a good person about it and answer every bit of them with a smile. It’s one thing reading a list of question from a scripted list, it’s another thing suggesting that someone fitted a certain position better because of how they looked. Could it have been the way I was dressed that suggested I could make a better receptionist ?I wanted to call it out but then I thought let me not use a hammer to crack an egg, so I shook hands left with a smile still.
It’s been 58 years since some 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings in the City of Pretoria to protest – rising up against the legislation that required black South Africans to carry the “pass” (special identification documents which infringed on their freedom of movement during the Apartheid era), approximately 20 000 women from all over the country took to the streets of Pretoria – many carrying the children of their white bosses on their backs – to stage a peaceful march to the Union Buildings led by the likes of Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Albertina Sisulu and Sophia Williams-De Bruyn amongst others. After dropping off bundles of petitions containing more than 100 000 signatures at Prime Minister J.G Strijdom’s offices, they stood in silence for thirty minutes. A song was composed in honour of this momentous occasion, “Wathint’ Abafazi Wathint’ imbokodo!” (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock).Two years prior to this protest though the womens charter was adopted:
It is very interesting to note that the struggle against gender inequality is not just a South African problem and it is not new. All the South African women of 1954 wanted was a society that saw women as equal to men, in the areas of politics, legal, social, business. A society where equal opportunities and equal pay were open and granted to women the same way they are to men. A society where one will not be judged by how they look and immediately put in a box of Tea lady, Secretary, PA or even receptionist by default of being a women. They acknowledged that women coexist together with men and therefore if these were to be combated men needed to be heaved in as well. While men and women are usually partners in a compact and closely integrated family unit in the home front, the same close nit, working towards the same apparition and goals can be achieved in business, politics and socially, or not?
Maybe not, it seems women are doing a better job of pulling each other down more than men do. I came across this the other day:
I didn’t know whether to continue reading or just make a yin and a yang of it. I continued nonetheless she went on and on and on to “Suddenly, it hit me: I hate Sheryl Sandberg.It’s not because she’s so rich, or because she’s the COO of Facebook, or because she has gleaming, meticulously coiffed hair.” She said. Here I was thinking that women executives have bigger bones to pick on than comment on how other’s hair looked, could it be the whole kicking of the ladder theory? I mean I am yet to hear a men utter such statement about fellow men be it a rival or colleague.
As if we don’t have more pressing issues to deal with, Our department of Art & Cultured puts yet more emphasis on looks as we celebrate this year’s women month with a theme such as “Wear a doek Campaign” Shrieks. Is there more to the doek Campaign than the looks? We sure won’t be needing much men’s help as we put on those doeks,
Will we ever get to a point where we as women are seen as more than just the faces? I am almost certain we have much more to contribute in furthering this countries of ours and that cannot be attributed to looks alone can it? My mind is battling to see how such a theme is going to shift the thinking, creativity is good but substance goes a long way.
A few ideas to keep in mind throughout this Women’s month:
- The women that you are is more than enough – wear a doek don’t wear it. Well maybe be a good citizen and do what your minister say you must do, wear that doek, take that selfie but in all of that know why you are doing it.
- Education alone is not secured a route – to empowerment as we have always been told. Be as interested as you can, network outside your comfort zone you will be amazed how accessible those networking session will come in as you progress in life and your career.
- Engage – be willing and be able to stand up to authority, it helps sometimes to see conflict as thinking by so doing we enable ourselves and the people around us to do our very best in thinking.
- Be comfortable with being uncomfortable – the need for an ongoing professional and personal development is key. As you work on growing your skills and your networks, there will be times and situations where you feel uncomfortable…get on with your development nonetheless.
While women’s paths to empowerment not straightforward, there are many obstacles, women need not travel alone, routes are circuitous and there may be many stops along the way. To achieve sustainable gender equality, we should look beyond targets and tick-boxes, and explore the complexity of women’s lives and relationships. We need to listen to women’s experiences to understand what works and what does not; we need to support women in realising their rights and support organisation’s that help secure them; and we need to tackle the power structures that sustain inequality, and the issues that block women’s equal representation in politics and business.
Where are come from, women spend their lives trying to get rid of the doek!