There’s no denying that South African women are some of the strongest in the world! They go through life with confidence, independence, outspokenness, humour and high-octane energy. Despite overwhelming adversities, they not only hold themselves together, but they are also the backbone of their families and communities. And through it all, they continue to rise up the ladders of business, politics, sports, science, medicine and entertainment.
What is this ‘inner grit’, this determination, this tenacity that we see in so many South African women?
That quiet dignity and fortitude of the family matriarch, our beloved Gogos?
The drive and ambition of the younger women, eager to break through the glass ceiling of their profession?
The dreams and optimism of young girls seeking role models to inspire them?
More importantly, how can we (both men and women) help empower the women of South Africa?
Boost Her Self-Esteem
What is that ‘secret sauce’, that ‘starting line’ of a woman’s (or girl’s) journey to success? Arguably it can be boiled down to one key concept: How she sees herself? Does she recognize her value as a woman? Does she see her own strength? The irreplaceable part she plays in her family, in her community?
“I am a woman. I am powerful, I am a role model, and I am intelligent. I have a heart of gold.” This is what one of the students of the Arrupe Women’s Skills Centre in Johannesburg wrote when she was asked to define women.
The education and skills training these women receive through this, and many other skills training centers scattered around the country equips them to open their own businesses. The ripple effect of empowering these women, of helping them realize their own value, is that they, in turn, create employment opportunities for others.
‘Don’t be scared of your power. You have a voice. Learn to use it, because one day it might change the world.’
Another ambassador for women and girls is our own Miss Universe 2019, Zozibini Tunzi. Her focus is on encouraging girls and young women to “tap into their power” and use their voice.
“We’re really taught to be followers from a very young age — men lead, and women follow. I think it’s important because we’re killing so many dreams of young girls. We’re killing so many opinions they have. They could resolve so many issues in the world, but they can’t because they’re not given their platform.”
“You’re not taught to be ambitious as a woman. And so, when you are, sometimes you shy away from it or you’re scared of voicing your opinions. I think we need to start honing that at a young age to say, ‘Don’t be scared of your power. You have a voice. Learn to use it, because one day it might change the world.’ “
Be a role model and a mentor
Young women are deeply influenced by other women who come into their lives as role models. You don’t have to be a successful businesswoman, a politician, or a celebrity to be a good role model. Wherever you are, whether at home or at work, you can become a role model – so make sure you’re a good one.
Be vocal about admiring other strong women, celebrating different types of beauty, and encouraging women to make their dreams a reality. Intentionally offer to make yourself available as a mentor. Younger, or less experienced, women may feel intimidated about asking for mentorship, so offer to help them, but do so in a way that is kind and uplifting, not critical.
Support Women-Run Businesses
What better way to encourage and, on a very practical level, uplift other women than by supporting women-run businesses. Be intentional about seeking out these businesses. Talk about them, network with your friends, co-workers and neighbours – spread the word about what a great experience you have had with their business. Word of mouth is one of the most effective means of promoting a business, and it’s free!
Advocate for Female Coworkers
Women are still fighting daily for equal rights in the workplace even though more and more women are in leadership roles than ever before.
Be an advocate for other women in your place of work – don’t tear them down. For example, if you see them experiencing unfair treatment in a meeting, or with a paycheck, say something. Stand together to make positive changes in the workplace. By doing so, you’re making a difference for the next generation of women who may work there.
To our beautiful and strong #ImStaying women: Empowering women begins with YOU.
Show your support for the women around you.
Show them that they matter.
Remind them of their strength.
“The world needs strong women. Women who will lift and build others, who will love and be loved. Women who live bravely, both tender and fierce. Women of indomitable will.” Amy Tenney
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GOOD THOUGHTS • GOOD WORDS • GOOD DEEDS