I don’t know about you, but often one public holiday rolls into the next with little regard for what we are celebrating and remembering? Well, National Women’s Day is a day every year that I do take time to reflect on what the women who came before me did to change the way I live my life today. I send a silent nod of respect up to them. I am eternally and deeply grateful for what they endured, and for the strength of their spirits.
I have been keenly aware of gender equality since I was a little girl. My mum told me once much later in life that one of her worst mother moments was when at age ten I asked her if she had been a women’s right activist, and the look of disappointment on my face when she had truthfully told me that she had not fought for women’s rights. I had obviously been learning about it at school that day.
Last night watching Madam Secretary I was moved by a quote by Susan B Anthony. It sums up how I feel every August 9th, even though it refers to America and not what our own women did here in South Africa, it reminds me that as women, our struggle has been a global one, one that doesn’t see the borders of countries or the separation of land by the sea.
“We shall someday be heeded, and when we shall have our amendment to the Constitution of the United States, everybody will think it was always so, just exactly as many young people think that all the privileges, all the freedom, all the enjoyments which woman now possesses always were hers. They have no idea of how every single inch of ground that she stands upon today has been gained by the hard work of some little handful of women of the past.”
On Thursday I decided to send a message to some of the women in my life and ask what the significance of being a woman is to them. Here is what they had to say.
- “Being a woman for me is being a nurturer, a pillar of strength and a centre of community” – Thokozile Mahlangu – CEO IISA.
- “Beauty (inner) and balance, wisdom and worry, nature and nurture, strength and strategy, love and light. The gift of being a mother and the delight and joy of being a grandmother. I have been blessed to have worked with so many strong and amazing women who stand tall despite huge hardship; who trust the rhythm of nature and who respectfully and generously share the very little they have with an open heart. Their generous sharing of their beautiful inner light has enriched my life tremendously.” Eugenie Drake – Founder – Piece.
- “Being a woman is being a steadfast servant of society – a ready helper to friends, husbands, kids, siblings, colleagues, strangers, and mostly fierce and fine fighters of all good fights life picks with us! Fight on sister.” – Cynthia Nanthalal – Head – Hollard Marine.
- “It’s about being the best person you can be and enabling those around you to be the best they can be.” Lethabo-Thabo Royds – Digital Guru – CN&CO
- “Being a woman is being a badass with a big heart. Soft but strong. Taken from one of my favourite quotes: She never looked good, she looked like art and art wasn’t supposed to look nice, it was supposed to make you feel something – Rainbow Rowell. The future is female” – Emi Adriano – Digital Nerd – CN&CO.
- “Being a woman is hard. Trying to be the perfect mom, perfect employee and perfect wife, while always feeling guilty you are not doing them perfectly. So today I am looking forward to spending some time with my kids and husband to work on two of those guilt issues” Lucy Cooke – Marketing Manager – Bidvest Insurance.
- “Being a woman is the best thing in the world because God gifts you with a compassionate heart to generously give to one another, to see the world as it could be. One of the gifts women have that men don’t necessarily have is the gift of growing a life and bringing a life into this world, which is one of the biggest privileges, I just love spending time with my children, watching them grow. They remind me that life is about the simple things, not the big things. The smiles and kisses you get from your children make life worth living. I think another thing that women have is the gift of is friendship. If you think of the friendship circles we make and how we love, and support and uplift one another. We can be vulnerable with each other with no judgement and actually the more vulnerable we are the deeper the friendships. It is hard work being a modern woman. Juggling being a mother with being a serious career woman. But I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. – Julia Fryer – highly successful career woman currently on sabbatical in Kenya.
- Being a woman is about being everything for everyone. A mom. A boss. A sister. A friend. A shrink. A doctor. A negotiator. A listener. A do’er. But being a badass woman is about being your best, just for you. Carly Barnes – Marketing Manager – Easy Equities.
For me, being a woman is about being conscious about what makes us fundamentally different to men. We are supposed to be different, so as an equality conscious woman I always try to remain true to what makes me a woman at my core whilst still being keenly aware of what society and some men still do that holds us back from reaching true equality. Being a woman is being kind. Its about being a friend. Its about being vulnerable and being okay with that.
Being a woman is about being very aware of how women in some societies are still terribly persecuted. Its about being very aware of the disgustingly high rate of sexual abuse in our own country on our own women. Its about trying to fight in some way to change that.
Its about being a role model to other women, especially the young ones. I learnt and moulded myself so much on my mother. I am blessed that she was a great human being. A giant of a person with a heart bigger than I could imagine and an incredibly strong moral compass.
What impact will you have on the women who come after you?