‘THE POWER LIES WITHIN US’: Academic and radio presenter Andy Maqondwana urges women to own their space and their purpose.
I am EVERY woman. This is a statement I live by. This means that I cannot separate myself from the issues and experiences that women from different walks of life are faced with. Their pain is my pain. Their achievements are my achievements. Their setbacks are my setbacks. I am EVERY woman.

It is through reading that I have been introduced to many different women who have helped me discover parts of me that I didn’t know existed. The one book that has significantly changed my life must be The Color Purple by Alice Walker.

The book tells the story of a young woman, Celie, who was violated by society and her family, and had her identity stripped away from her. It was through meeting and interacting with other women with similar struggles, but who had different responses to their struggles, that she found her own voice and power.

Part of the reason the book had such an impact on my life is that I found a lot of similarities between myself and Celie.

Growing up I was a very quiet and reserved child. I was very passive to life, and that passiveness spilt over into my adult years. I never owned my space and my purpose.

I would observe others doing life, never thinking I could do the same. I learnt a lot from books and what others had to say about me, what my parents’ expectations were and what society had prescribed for me, being both black and a woman, but never took the time to question the world or myself, as to what I wanted.

Reading The Color Purple was almost like reading a book about myself. If I had been born in another time, in another family, that could have easily been my story.

I lived in better conditions and in better times than Celie, so I quickly realised that I had no excuse to be leading my life the way I was. It was then that I realised the responsibility I had in taking control of my own life, in finding my voice, not just for me, but for the next generation of women.

The book taught me the most powerful lesson: that women can liberate one another.

It is every woman’s journey to not only find her voice, but to know how to use it to harness her power and bring about change in other women. The only tool that is a catalyst in the liberation of women is education.

One of the areas I realised early on that I thrived in was academics. In academics, your performance isn’t based on whether you are black or white, male or female, fat or thin. I applied myself heavily in my academics,where I gained confidence.

I didn’t have to be apologetic about being top of the class, because I had earned my position fair and square. In some ways, I felt that the playing field was levelled, and that is where I believe I first encountered what I call my #BlackGirlMagic - where I found the space to raise my voice as a black woman and join in celebrating of each other’s beauty, power and resilience.

Through academics, the world of books was opened to me, which turned out to be my biggest blessing, and my heart bleeds for young women who are deprived of education because of structural inequalities in our society.

I strongly believe that as women, particularly women of colour, it is our duty to not only inspire, but to also empower one another. It is through telling our stories that we become empowered and empower other young women.

We live in a time where women’s voices and their presence in all spaces is vital to the survival and improvement of our society. It is through the sharing of our stories, verbally or through books, that we liberate ourselves as well as each other. Our magic lies in being unapologetic and unashamed of our stories, and truly being able to say "I am EVERY woman".

This Women’s Month, Nal’ibali is paying tribute to all South African women and has joined forces with Buhle Ngaba, author of The Girl Without A Sound. Download her book in four languages at http://nalibali.org/news-blog/news/Nalibali-Buhle-Ngaba-on-Womens-Day.

Andy Maqondwana is a radio presenter, master of ceremonies, entertainer and academic.