As Women’s Month draws to a close, one of the many lessons we should appreciate more, and apply in our everyday lives, especially in our quest for equal inclusion in the mainstream economy, is the power and impact of women who are united.
The Women’s Day public holiday that we celebrate every year honours the unity of 20,000 women from all walks of life – rich or poor, educated or illiterate, married or single, black or white – who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 against oppressive apartheid pass laws.
The protest action is so iconic that, 62 years later, we still appreciate its contribution towards a democratic South Africa. But how can the 2018 woman learn from this unquestionable show of unity and commitment towards a cause that can liberate fellow women in modern-day societal dynamics?
The year is 2018, yet women are still on the back foot in the corporate environment, in social and political leadership. While there are interventions, programmes and policies put in place to balance the men-women equation, women have never needed each other to stand for each other, stand with one another and lift each other up as they do now.
There are women who, in their own right, hold positions of influence, knowledge and wisdom but very seldomly tap into this power – the kind of power that has the ability to change the trajectory of someone’s life.
This is not a position of economic class, job title or even influence. It’s a position of knowledge, network and upskilling.
Upskilling & knowledge
A lot of women are starting to realise their true potential. They are starting to believe in their dreams and the possibility of realising their goals.
Sadly, with our country’s unjust background and general female gender oppression, most women aren’t equipped to translate their dream into a business plan.
They don’t have access to mentors, business role models or people who actively share their knowledge and exposure to programmes and opportunities that can help their businesses to take off.
If you’re equipped with skills to craft a basic business plan or marketing strategy, have knowledge of funding programmes and small business incubators, or can offer financial literacy advice and training, don’t hold back on the prospect of helping.
Offer your time, lend an ear, train and mentor a fellow woman to turn their dreams into an economic empowerment opportunity – a gesture that doesn’t cost a cent.
Not so long ago, I met a beaming female petrol attendant who gave me a refreshing world-class experience. Her level of service still has me convinced to this day that the wealthy business class passengers in an expensive airline don’t experience such.
A quick chat with her revealed she is a film graduate who self-funded her qualification with a minimum wage from a butchery franchise. She was struggling to secure a job in her line of study and had opted to keep herself busy with alternative employment.
I immediately posted her story on all my social media channels and challenged companies that could use her skill set to take her under their wing and offer her the career opportunity she yearned so much for.
This gesture didn’t cost me a dime and I had no control over the outcome, but it bore the fruits we had hoped for.
Today, Prosperity Mkhari, Vuyi to her peers, is employed at one of the leading advertising agencies in the world. A mere demonstration of ‘intention’ to help changed the course of Vuyi’s life.
Imagine if we shone the spotlight on more women who need a breakthrough like Vuyi.
While we may not have knowledge of a job opening, some of us have a wide network of colleagues and friends or a significant following on our social media who may know of a company that needs a specific skill set.
We need to use utilise this network to advance our ambitions of becoming a force to reckoned with. Let’s amplify each other, spread the word about our skill sets, products and services we offer.
Every woman should challenge themselves to help another in the best way they are equipped to.
Let’s conduct a personal audit of our capabilities, who we know, how much time we have to spare and what other resources we have at our disposal – financial and non-financial – that we can invest in the struggle for equal opportunities.
We have the power to validate another woman’s dreams, and to help her see it through, but we have to learn from the class of ’56 and appreciate the power we already have at our disposal, and use it as a united force!
Lerato Ditshego is a motivational speaker and businesswoman