Generation Equality: Realising women’s rights for an equal future
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Keneilwe Sarah Miffie
I may not have been one of the women partaking in the 1956 march, but I can only imagine what it must have felt like. When women come together to achieve a common goal, the possibilities are endless.
The closest I would be to such wisdom would be when Papa brought home a copy of the Sowetan from work. Mampone, my grandmother, would make me read almost every page out loud and translate the stories to her in Sesotho.
I only found out much later in my teens that my Gran was previously employed as a healthcare worker, and she could read and write English. A tad bit too late, I must add, because at that stage, I could read and translate a tabloid, including specials at OK – a popular grocer and furniture store at the time. Then, I was already a member of my school’s drama and debate team in the dusty streets of Soweto.
Some days, my grandmother, who was also blind, wouldn’t be in the mood for my reading and translations that I had become so accustomed to. On such days, I would read to myself because she would complain that I talk a lot, that I should go work for what was then called Radio Bantu – because it was the only place that paid people to talk a lot – I assumed.
So, you can imagine when, many years later, I’m invited, as a special guest, by the SABC to a Woman’s Day event – long after Mampone had departed. I laughed after receiving the telephonic invite thinking about all the things she would ask me to tell everyone at Lesedi FM.
From the Makumane amona le mane team, Chomane Chomane on the breakfast show, Mamontha Modise (now Motaung) on Mmmokeng wa Mafumahadi, Thuso Motaung on Bua le yona Mokganni, to the Dipihi tsa Bafu Presenter – probably even Tsa Dithotsela. Don’t get me started on Malindi ka Ntuli’s “Sikhulekile eKhaya” on Ukhozi FM.
Sakina Kamwendo was the moderator, and looking at the list of panellists, I knew I was in good hands. This wasn’t going to be one of those events sponsored by an alcoholic beverage, and you win a prize as the best-dressed individual. This was serious business. Not to mention the strategic choice of women “around the table” and guests alike. Did I mention that, besides the panellists, I was one of two guests invited? Such important details should never be left out of any conversation.
Ahem. By the look of things, this was a Women's Lekgotla, where women come together to unpack issues, no matter how sensitive.
The purpose of this debate was not only to discuss challenges women face in the workplace, but issues that affect women in general. We are women, but we are also mothers, sisters, wives, leaders and that stranger on a bus you feel you can just pour your heart to. Yes, that’s us.
It doesn’t take the moderator long to get the conversation started. On the contrary, the conversation started long before we went to Studio 1. I tilt the screen of my laptop, put my phone in my bag and watch.
“Who is not getting arrested? This is statutory rape.” – enquired Dr Fraser-Moleketi. She was responding to a recent report by the Department of Health that girls, as young as 10, are among 23,226 pupils who fell pregnant in Gauteng between April last year and March this year. Teenage pregnancy remains a social problem in South Africa, and Dr Marcia Socikwa echoed the same sentiment, adding that the world of ICT is a “blessing and a curse”.
“These young girls are lured by older men with money, mobile airtime and data”. She stated that we need to teach our young girls that these are not the be-all and end-all. There are other prospects.
Ntombizodwa Mahlangu, a published author and former domestic worker, also added that some women are a part of this exploitation of our young girls. They know what’s going on, but they won’t speak out because in some instances, the perpetrator is the breadwinner.
Zimkitha Mona was asking where the village is that is supposed to be raising these girls. “We carry on with our lives and forget to be mentors to these young girls”, responded Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi, Deputy Chairperson of the SABC Board. Once we “make it”, we forget all about the “village”.
This statement really hit close to home because as a child, if I did anything wrong, Mamofokeng – a neighbour, would give me such a hiding, and I would get even more from my mother, or aunt, when I got home – depending who’s home at the time. That is who we were back then? What changed? Is it democracy, education or suburban living? I wonder.
The Deputy Chairperson continued to say that it’s the same way. We, women, forget about uplifting other women in the workplace. “Where is the sisterhood? Because all I see is PHD” (Pull Her Down Syndrome), said Mohlala-Mulaudzi. She mentioned how women have to fight ten times harder to be recognised in the workplace.
That “the glass ceiling is cracked, but it is still there”. Men are out there helping and protecting one another. August should be every single day. We have a Department and Minister of Women and Children, and the only time we hear from this department is on the 9th of August. This department needs to be held accountable, she concluded.I continue to make notes in my journal well after picking up my jaw from the ground, not from shock but at the realisation that such women still exist.
Ntombizodwa Mahlangu, who at the age of 19 fell pregnant, said nobody saw anything wrong as she had already been to initiation school. According to her culture, after initiation school, a girl is considered a woman, and it was okay for her to have a baby. It isn’t. When a girl is that age, she is still a child.
“Shouldn’t we be mentoring young women instead?” asked Yolanda Cuba. Cuba is a founder of the Mentorship Boardroom. A mentee of former minister Tokyo Sexwale, she has created a platform that anyone from all walks of life can access to find a mentor.
After leaving the event, I asked myself if it Isn’t strange that 27 years into our democracy, women still have to justify equality, not just in the workplace but in general? Previously, women were subjected to inequality by their male counterparts. Now, women are denied opportunities by other women. Something I wish could have been discussed in more depth at this webinar.
Well, there is only so much you can say in two hours. Hopefully, these are conversations we will continue to have amongst ourselves as women. As Women's Month is drawing to a close, I realise we still have a long way to go, and two hours out of the 31 days in August is certainly not enough. Aluta Continua.
Keneilwe Sarah Miffie is a Certified Travel Specialist and Founder of Mohato Communications.