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Brothers and Sisters: Guest Blog by Sifiso Skenjana

negrita

The Mediterranean climate is very conducive for thirst-quenching exercises involving the consumption of certain distilled beverages. And in so exercising (as I often do), I happened to come across this interestingly articulated packaging of a certain beverage (above). Earlier in the week I had also come across (in a shop) a Lindt ‘Chocolate Negro’ – which is just a Spanish translation of “dark chocolate”. I say interestingly articulated because as a black South African, I quickly drew reference of the packaging and its unambiguous association of the name Negrita to the dark-skinned lady. I’ll leave it there for now, but stay with me.

So in writing this article I was inspired to challenge what I call The Old Normal – where people and countries passively denounce institutionalised oppression, but physically do little or nothing to show their opposition and solidarity against such oppression.

“Institutional Oppression occurs when established laws, customs, and practices systematically reflect and produce inequities based on one’s membership in targeted social identity groups.

Institutional Oppression creates a system of invisible barriers limiting people based on their membership in unfavored social identity groups. The barriers are only invisible to those “seemingly” unaffected by it.” [1]

Hence: Them… not us – The Old Normal

This takes me one particular issue that continues to have global prevalence – gender inequity. My moment of truth came when I watched actor Emma Watson‘s UN Speech (video below) at a special event to launch the HeForShe campaign – a solidarity movement for gender equality developed by UN Women to engage men and boys as advocates and agents of change for the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights. Soon after, we saw this year’s Nobel Peace Prize go to Malala Yousafzai for her work as an activist for human rights and female education, having grown up in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, where at times girls had been banned from attending school by the local Taliban.

The question then that follows is: “If you believe that it is wrong that women continue to be structurally oppressed (politically, economically and socially) – what are YOU actively doing to advocate for change?”

I too, have been guilty of cheering feminists from the side-lines “Go! Go! Go! You feminists you. Fight the good fight“. Looking within, I knew my approach had to be different. As a start, I sought to define for myself what feminism is and what it means. I asked a number of people (men and women) to define for me what feminism means to them. The most inspiring response came from Mbewu Movement – a forum led by young African women, inspiring change through leadership, education, mentorship and the building of sustainable networks advocating for gender equity.

“Feminism ultimately means men and women having equal rights. I believe it’s also about collapsing historically [defined] gender roles and complementing one another instead of competing. However, I think what society grapples with the most is how subjective gender roles have become as a result of women being more empowered. This means that society is in the midst of defining a new normal- in the workplace, in families, in relationships and in communities.

In my view, the speed at which we define the new normal is influenced by the gender consciousness of leadership and educating men and women on what opportunities feminism can bring to both parties. The longer we have leadership which is semi-conscious to feminism and contradicting views of what feminism is about, the longer it’ll take to reach a fully-fledged new normal.” – Magcino Radebe, Mbewu Movement

Until the oppressors believe that they have a part to play in the redress of century’s long inequality, little progress will be made. It is a good fight, and we must all fight it – “The New Normal”

“It is not the word that is important. It is the idea and the ambition behind it.” – Emma Watson

––

Sifiso Skenjana is an MSc(Finance) candidate at ESADE Business School in Spain. He is passionate about Africa, and leading the work to provide solutions for Africans by Africans. With prior experience in asset management and internal strategy, his primary area of interest is research, focusing on industry, markets and development. Sifiso has previously contributed for South African based financial weekly publication FinWeek, focusing primarily on industry and company analysis. He is currently an active blogger and also contributes for the finance section of Blaque Magazine, a lifestyle magazine. His blog, Letters from Spain, sheds light on his experience of Spain and draws reference to markets, investments and challenges his audience to join the global debate to provide solutions for problems faced by communities globally.

[1] http://slutwalk.wikia.com/wiki/Concepts_of_Structural_Oppression:_A_General_Overview

* initially published on Letters from Spain

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