In 3 consecutive weeks I had the privilege of attending talks, workshops and conferences where amazing African female leaders from different industries were key note speakers.
I attended a UNWomen talk where Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was sharing or unpacking rather the plight of the gender goals in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which follow-on from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Other guest speakers also highlighted the status of gender equality issues in South Africa. In the global scale, South Africa is not doing so great however, female representation in the South African parliament ranks high in the world which is impressive.
I then attended a Ruth First Memorial Lecture at the University of Wits; the theme of this lecture was Race: Lived experiences and contemporary conversations. If “woah” was a descriptive enough adjective to try and express how I felt about the event, I would leave it there. But people tend to want a more elaborated description…right?…Have you ever been to a talk, a lecture or watched a speech where you got goosebumps with almost every third word the speaker echoed? a sense of pride as our family members do when we achieve a goal; a sense of questioning oneself as an educated, young, black, talented person “am I doing my bit, am I doing enough?”…that is what the “woah” encapsulates.
Speakers: Panashe Chigumadzi shared her research findings into the experience of those she described as ‘coconuts’. Sisonke Msimang and Lebo Mashile performed Msimang’s text based on her research exploring the possibility of authentic interracial friendship. I am a huge fan, follower, and admirer of the work these three phenomenal women do respectively. I started following Lebo Mashile’s work when I was fifteen, when I use to make paintings with words in the form of poetry. I started following Sisonke Msimang’s work in 2012 when she gave Mbewu Movement an intimate mentor session talk; Sisonke is a seasoned writer, academic, speaker, daughter, sister, wife, mother…amongst other impressive things. I recently got introduced to Panashe’s work: Vanguard Magazine an online sanctuary for young Africans with a voice.
The week (end) after that I attended the Mbewu Movement mentor session, where the topic under discussion was ‘Women and Wealth’. The keynote speakers were Happy Ralinala and Thandi Ngwane. Happy exquisitely encapsulated her own meaning of holistic wealth; she spoke about the importance of being intellectually, spiritually and emotionally wealthy before even talking finances. Thandi magnificently spoke to the audience about the investments and saving culture in the South African context.
One of the key take outs for me when I reflected on all the above mentioned powerful events, is the importance of reinforcing constructive symbolism and conversation. As a social scientist turn marketer, I for one understand the power of ‘conditioning’. When you hear and see the same (similar) message over and over again, eventually you start believing it to be the truth. Seeing strong, educated, empowered women at the different talks/forums I attended made me feel soo empowered as a young, black, educated, (South) African female. SYMBOLISM. I firmly believe that if we want to get the world use to the idea of strong, opinionated women, we need to create a surplus of such platforms, invite men to listen in and share their views as well; in order for us to build the type of society we want to live in.
We (as a society) need to create and replicate spaces where truthful, honest and constructive conversations can happen. We need to be constantly engaged in dialogues that will aide our progress as a human species. As simplistic as my response may be at times; I always say to friends : ‘why on earth would you choose anger as your response to a situation when there is war, drugs, rape, poor education etc. in the world?…may you instead choose to let your life be an inspiring message to the world, the world needs it’.