And the word was ‘woman’

And the word was ‘WOMAN’

The month of August, ‘women’s month is widely known to be a month of many occasions, ceremonies and awards celebrating ‘Bafazi’ It is a month when women are given center stage in every sphere of society, in business, government, the education and more, to honour and celebrate the progress that women have made in the last few decades.

The UCT Graduate School of Business organised a conference for business women at least in Cape Town, to gather together under the banner of Women of Africa, power in unity conference. A number of esteemed Women were invited to share and tell their stories of success in business, the key note speaker was the distinguished Dr Mamphela Ramphele, chair of Circle Capital ventures, a truly remarkable role model to the nation.

Dr Ramphele as usual touched on a myriad of very important issues such as sexism, psychological liberation and transformed leadership.

She emphasised the importance of self respect, and how all of us can use respect of our own selves to negate disrespect by others.

Women by and large still experience sexism in the predominantly male work environments that they work in, this is as Dr Ramphele mentions in her book, ‘laying ghosts to rest’ one of the ghosts from the past that we need to call by name and confront. Women she said, need to speak out on issues that they deem to be of importance, they need to do away with the silences that exist in the domenstic, economical and the political arena. As women, we need to call our leaders, both men and women, to account and we need to be the change that we want to see.

We need to refrain from letting the ‘opponents’ to define the rules of the game, women cannot continue to emulate men in order to feel that they are empowered.

She suggests that the power of woman is in understanding of power as the capacity to act and enable others, we ought  to shy away from the zero sum notion of power that defines it as finite i.e. the more I give you, the less I have.

This indeed resonated with me on a very fundamental level.

Dr Ramphele left us with the question of what difference does having women leadership make?

I am a woman and an ardent supporter of women empowerment in every society, I believe in gender equality and consider myself to be a pro woman individual. By the same token, I celebrate the men in our society and believe that they too play a vital role in the advancement of women in our society. The men, I believe, need to be included in all dialogue pertaining to finding ways of gaining gender equality and making strides in having women empowered. Just as racism is not solely the problem of a victim, but an issue to be addressed by both victim and victimiser, one cannot expect to even attempt to address such deep issues by dealing only with the one side of the victim. The same, I feel, goes for women empowerment issues, and gender equality issues, only speaking to huge gatherings of women, is to me akin to preaching to the converted. There is a chance that men, may feel they are not expected to play any roles in the mission to improve matters for women. By only focusing on women, are we not inadvertently exonerating men and excluding them in the finding of solutions to the problems encountered by women in the male dominated spaces I must admit that having attended the conference at UCT GSB, I began to ask myself what it really means to be empowered as a woman in South Africa, is women empowerment, and gender equality mutually exclusive? Is it acceptable to invite my business partner and husband to a women’s conference? Are women empowerment conferences exclusively for women?

Have we come up we a women’s version of a ‘boy’s club?

Where do men fit into the agenda of having gender equality?

Is it an us and them scenario?

These and more, were some of the questions on my mind as I was sitting amoungst a most powerful group of women.

Considering that both my partner and I had attended the conference mainly for business purposes, we are in the business of collecting audio that can be packaged to be heard by any one who may not have been present at a particular event. Thus because of our commitment to the vision of our company, we found it fitting to invite both members of our company to the conference, one of them just happened to be a man. It seemed however, as if no men were expected to grace this occasion, out of 250 guests four of them were men. The assumption I believe was, this is a women’s conference, only women would attend. I was glad to have been part of this momentous occasion. There were such inspirational stories that can add much value to all who hear them. Vox pop Africa media hopes to package some of the stories to share with all.

I believe in equal opportunities and have thought extensively about what it means to be equal, how does one feel being equal? Do we need to have an other, to compare ourselves to in order to find our own sense of equality, in this case as women, should we compare ourselves to men in our quest for equality? Does empowerment of women equal disempowerment of men?

I’m not sure these questions can be easily answered, however, I find that the more I think about it , the more I realise that my sense of feeling and being equal does not have to depend on external factors, rather it comes from within me. It cannot be threatened by outside behaviour of others, if it is something that I own, and know.

In my world view things are not better or worse, they are simply different, men and women are different in various ways, and have not reason to want to be the same. There is room for both men and women in both public and private spheres. In the boardrooms and at home. We are all affected when it comes to issues of gender equality, therefore, there is a need for us all to work together to find the balance.

Halala Bafazi, Halala!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy women’s month

we salute you!!!!!