closer

Women; the past, present and future

Since 1995, we’ve celebrated National Women’s Day — but how often do we take a moment to reflect on this day? It’s important for us to understand how far we’ve come in bridging the gender gap.

On the 9th of August 1956, around 20,000 women marched to Pretoria’s Union Buildings to fight against legislation that imposed repressive restrictions on women’s movements. Together they stood up against injustice with peaceful demonstrations, during a time when violence was perceived as an instrument for change.

Gladly much has changed since the 1950s, in South Africa and the world. However, the glass ceiling and the gender pay gap is still pervasive. The invisible restrictions and obstacles to women’s upward mobility are still present across industries, from education, politics, corporate leadership, and entrepreneurship. The lack of representation in certain sectors, such as technology, can further perpetuate gender inequality. It’s become essential that we, in any way that we can, dismantle prevailing stereotypes, traditional (and sometimes damaging) gender roles, and the expectations associated with them. Whether you’re an employer or employee, a student, a parent, young or old, it’s vital that we’re all transparent and accountable.

National Women’s Day wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t celebrate some of our very own, like alumnus Dorcas Onyango, Head of Sustainability of Coca-Cola Africa’s Southern & East Africa Business Unit. A perfect example of how education acts as a means to uplift women across the globe.

Apelele Mroqoza, another alumnus, is also exemplary of this, a qualified Graphic Designer who received a silver award at The Pendoring Awards 2018 for her furniture design called Hlala. The brand manufactures mobile furniture for poor schools without essential equipment like desks and chairs. If just one woman can create something as simple, yet ingenious and more importantly, so beneficial to society, imagine if everyone was given the opportunity to learn.

Women around the world are making strides in leadership positions and showing off their unique capabilities. The Forbes Self Made Women list will leave you in awe at the incredible things women have achieved.

Recently I spent time reading about Juliet Harding, a Red & Yellow alumnus and vocalist of internationally-celebrated local band, GoodLuck. She speaks about uplifting women and providing an environment where they can express themselves without the need to conform to unrealistic societal standards. We need to talk more about issues surrounding gender and femininity to create a more enlightened environment. (Side note: don’t miss her Lunchtime Lecture on 21 August.)

The man-hating myth that often accompanies feminism also needs to be shunned. There are some wonderful organisations that are doing important work to achieve gender equality; Sisonke Gender Justice and Commission for Gender Equality are just two of them.

The complete liberation of women requires determination, ambition and resilience. It’s up to us to stand up, raise our voices and celebrate our success and the power we possess. On Friday, let’s all remember where we’ve come from, and more significantly, how much we can achieve going forward.

Happy Women’s Day!

About the author: Tsholanang Seakamela, is part of the Red & Yellow graduate programme. She loves people and all things social. Believer and teacher, aspiring nomad and hopes to be Beyonce’s best friend one day!

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