Article Written By: Deborah Mutemwa
It has been said that behind every successful woman is an army of strong women who have her back. This rings true in
many respects, and now more than ever our generation is proving this saying right. In light of this it is fitting that the 27th of June 2015 was the official launch of the Women’s Empowerment Network of South Africa (WENOSA) held at the JoziHub in Johannesburg, which was themed “Building a Legacy of Transformation and Development for Women”.
WENOSA is a non-profit organization focused on the empowerment and upliftment of young women. WENOSA’s vision is to create a dynamic network of young empowered women who are at the centre of socio-economic transformation and development across multiple economies and societies. The Network purposefully intends to raise and empower a generation of resolute women who are self-assured, independent, educated and skilful.
Amongst some of the distinguished attendees at the event were guest speakers Dr Nozi Mjoli and Seapaei Mafonayne and many up and coming young women from all walks of life, from young professionals working at top firms in South Africa to extremely talented performance artists and young entrepreneurs.
The event was well attended and the atmosphere was electric. As the various women (and some men) gathered for the start of the launch, one thing was quite clear: women empowering one another is something we have been waiting for. It was stated at the event that many in our generation no longer want to be characterised as women who hate other women or women who judge and chastise other women; therefore acting as agents against our own progression in society.
As the event proceeded all in attendance became aware of the need to heed to the clarion call for women to become something more than spectators in the battle for our empowerment on the African continent and more importantly in the battle for Africa’s renaissance and rising.
From the aftermath of the event it is clear that all who attended were left with some food for thought and valuable lessons to remember as we continue to strive for success and happiness in our chosen fields and areas of life. In light of this, it is fitting to share a few of these insights with a wider audience:
Transformation is a battle from within
An important fact to remember is that as soon as we walk out of our doors, the world owes us nothing. Transformation and the empowerment of women is not the mere act of others creating access for women to walk through the door of success, rather, it is the act of each woman taking responsibility for their own development and growth. Despite its best intentions, the world will not break down walls and open doors to success and happiness for us – we are meant to pioneer our own way to success by investing in our education and leading ourselves from within.
As Seapei Mafonyane, CEO of Shanduka Black Umbrellas, very simply put it- if you don’t complain, people will assume you are happy. The world is our Oyster, but unfortunately it will not come to us, we have to take it by word or by action.
Many of the environments we seek to thrive in are not traditionally meant to cater for women, this is just the fact of the world as we know it, but it does not have to be the fate of the world as we can imagine it. However real and concerted the efforts are that are being made by those in positions to change things, if things are not changing fast enough it is probably because we are not speaking up enough. Unfortunately this means nothing will change, or nothing will change fast enough, if we as women do not stand up and address the issues which need addressing on our own behalf.
Know who you are
There was a moment of silence in the room as Dineo Rasedile asked a very simple question “Do you know who you are when you step out into the world, or do you wait for its lips to define you?” as she performed one of her spoken pieces about self-esteem and confidence. It is important to ask yourself this question and decide if you like the answer, because sadly, if we wait for the world to define us, we will each turn out a little crazy.
Believe in what you have to offer
Kofi Anaan once said that “there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women”. This rings true for various reasons, the most potent being that, more often than not, when you empower a woman you empower a community.
Further, as Dr Mjoli so aptly put it, women are not here to replace men; we bring something new to the table. She then went on to cite many reasons why this is true, for instance the recent successes of many businesses with women in top management are illustrative of the fact that there are certain areas in life and in business that women are better suited to thrive in and to take to new and better heights. Therefore we need not change who we are to thrive in this “man’s world” we need only to embrace and believe in what we have to bring to our different chosen fields.
Over and above the remarkable insights that were shared at the launch regarding building a legacy of transformation and development for women, one cannot help but mention the other challenges which women everywhere face on a daily basis. This was touched on by an impassioned address by Dineo Rasedile when she spoke of the frightening statistic that every 17 seconds, a woman is sexually abused in South Africa.
As we forge our way through to the top of our chosen fields , in the spirit of standing together, we must not forget these and other facts that impact women every day, or forget that our sisterhood and awareness must extend beyond accomplishments, success and happiness, but also to awareness and action where possible. As Angelina Jolie said at the 25th African Union summit, when speaking on the epidemic of sexual violence against women in the region, ‘We need policies for long-term security that are designed by women, focused on women, executed by women not at the expense of men, or instead of men, but alongside and with men”. As everyday women, active and thriving in our chosen fields, we need to become more than spectators too when it comes to these challenges that in one way or another affect us all.
No road to transformation is easy. The transformation from Apartheid has not been easy, and the transformation from a patriarchal society and world will be no less difficult. However, with women standing up for each other and together, there is much hope for a better tomorrow.
Written By: Deborah Mutemwa
Occupation: Candidate Attorney (Webber Wentzel)
Committee Involvement: Chairlady of the Webber Wentzel Leadership Network’s Corporate Social Responsibility Sub-Committee, Member of the Women’s Empowerment Network of South Africa and (Chairlady- Sponsorship Committee
Educational Background: Bachelor of Laws (LLB), University of Johannesburg; Master of Laws Student (LLM), University of Johannesburg, Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute Certificate holder (the African Economic Challenge).
Cover image & event images taken by Black Myth Studios. Images provided by Deborah Mutemwa.