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SEEDS OF CHANGE

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1000 Women – 1000 Voices

Understanding Male Privilege: with Wozani Thabede

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Wozani Thabede

A couple of weeks back I shared a commitment to forgo privileges that I had enjoyed by virtue of being a man. A few days after posting that statement, a female friend of mine asked me what I meant by it. I had ideas of what male privilege was and I told her, but as we spoke I realised that there is so much more freedom and security I enjoy in the world because I’m a man, which is enjoyed at the expense of women. Eager to learn more about this I had a longer conversation with an inspiring woman, Wozani Thabede, who runs a successful consultancy firm, with a law degree in tow and a passion for women’s empowerment. This is a snippet of our conversation:

Q: Wozani, would you say there’s a difference between you and a man on the streets?

Wozani: “Yes there is, people see women as visual beings. When I’m walking on the streets I’m being judged by the way I look and the way I’m dressed; what my hair looks like, what my handbag looks like. Whereas for a man, I believe people look at a man and they see a man. If they are judging it may be a race thing but apart from that I think a man is just looked at as a man.”

Q: If you had a chance to change things, especially the challenges you face in being judged by the way you look, what would you change?

Wozani: “Well, I want to be able to walk on the streets and not feel the differences between me and a man. I want to be able to do certain things that men can do on the streets. Take for example, I wouldn’t walk at night alone, but a man can easily do that.

So many times I’ve had male friends or colleagues be like: “I’ll accompany you to this place or that place” maybe as a source of protection, but its something I’d like to be able to just do without having to rely on someone because if there isn’t a man readily available to help me do something, then it makes it difficult”.

Q: When you find yourself having to rely on other people to get certain things done, how does it make you feel?

Wozani: “Do you know what the saddest thing is; it doesn’t make me feel any type of way anyway because I’ve accepted it, it’s my way of life. I don’t know if that’s good or bad but I think it’s sad”.

Q: What would it take for you to feel safe on the streets?

Wozani: “Changing the current perception of a woman, as being the weaker sex, as helpless and hopeless; addressing that would change things 100%”

Q: How would you do that, how would you change minds?

Wozani: “I think men need to understand the position we are in as women. They need to value us, they need to see us as equals and that would certainly go a long way”.

Q: Earlier you mentioned how you’d like to walk on your own at night, what is so unsafe about the night for a woman?

Wozani: “You can get robbed, you can get raped, especially rape…you just feel vulnerable”.

Q: What is it about manhood and how we teach manhood, that makes some men rape, violate and rob people?

Wozani: “I think there’s the element that men have been portrayed as the stronger sex, or as the more powerful sex; so some men want to validate themselves through these acts. There’s an element of male perpetrators of violence against women wanting to demonstrate power; they feel inadequate, which is funny because these are the things they tend to want women to feel. They feel like they are weak, so it’s an element of wanting power”.

Q: Does this mean that some men don’t have power unless they use violence in trying to control other people?

Wozani: “First of all, I think it’s important for men and women as well to understand the differences that God, I’m Christian so I’ll refer to God, or even if you don’t want to refer to God, to understand the differences that are between men and women.

So now if they don’t understand these differences, like men that view women as a weaker sex; when you have women that know and understand who they are, why they were created and are strong, then it tends to intimidate these men. So this is where I think the differences are between men and women I’m talking about need to be really addressed.  If a woman is strong and open minded it doesn’t mean to say she’s trying to intimidate you,  but we women are equally as strong, and have the ability to be as equally independent as men. This shouldn’t be a threat, it should be a blessing because we can work together”.

Q: What would you say are the differences between men and women? What strengths do women have that men do not have, or that they share with men and what weaknesses do men have that women don’t have?

Wozani: “I think man by make was designed to lead, to protect and provide. He was designed to be a covering. Ultimately women were also designed to lead, they were designed to be care givers, to be nurturers; If you give a woman a seed she will make life out of it, so we’re designed to birth things. Now, what men or what people don’t understand is these differences. So if I’m designed to provide as a man and I’m designed to nurture as a woman, both of them are provision, you’re providing something.

It’s not to say that these elements I’ve mentioned in a man can’t be found in a woman and vice-versa but then I think they have been so separated and divided that no one is allowed to cross the other line. For instance, I grew up with brothers that were told not to cry because ‘men don’t cry’. They were told “You’re being too soft, you need to be a man” and I myself have been told that “You’re not a man and you don’t do that, you don’t go that far”. As an example, not too long ago someone said to me “It’s not advisable for a woman to buy a house before she’s married because that intimidates a man”, so why can’t I start to think about provision for my family as a woman when a man can?

I think those are the differences we have created for men and women and they are blurred a lot. If anyone crosses the blurred line they are ridiculed for trying to lose their identity, and then scenarios where people think they are not strong enough, or they are inadequate, come to play because they are demonstrating the characteristics they are told to not demonstrate”.

Q: What kind of man wouldn’t be intimidated by a woman who buys a house before she gets married?

Wozani: “I think it would take a confident man, I think confidence is everything. A man who is confident that assets, or my assets are not going to come in the way. A man that is confident that at some point in his future he is going to achieve over and above what he has now. A man that is confident that he is going somewhere and that where he is now is not where he’s going to be for the rest of his life”.

Q: Does this means the nature of men’s attraction to women should change and vice-versa, with women less concerned with men’s role as protectors and men less concerned with women as carers?

Wozani: “No. I previously mentioned the differences that were there when we were created. What I’m saying is that we should not use these differences to create injustice, division or to create a stronger and a weaker sex. I’m saying we should embrace them, embrace the differences, embrace the strengths of both sexes and use them to build better communities, better families and better nations”.

Q: What does injustice look like, what does the misuse of that balance between men and women look like?

Wozani: “What injustice is, is if I am a nurturer as a woman and if society has said I’m going to be the primary caregiver of children because I am a nurturer…then injustice is that I don’t have the same privileges that the man has purely because for example if I go on maternity leave I’m not paid the same as what a man is going to be paid when he’s at work; but I am creating a future, I am creating the future of that company, so that difference should not be used to create injustice in me being out of work and out of money. This is an injustice because I would be doing something that I was created to do and not being supported to do it.

Another example maybe would be in the workplace; people view the woman as soft, so they tend to not want to give them positions of leadership. Apart from being viewed as soft, generally they are not treated equally as men because people say, “One time she’s going to decide to have children and never come back”, or maybe “Due to her nature she’s going to embrace things that are not right or necessary in the business because she’s an ‘embracer’”. So that’s what I mean by injustice”

Q: Has the environment we’re in forced you to take up fights you otherwise would not have had to take up if you were viewed as equal to men?

Wozani: “I’ll be honest with you, it’s taken me a long while to get to where I am. The first few times I encountered stereotypes, I backed down and I really fed into the system of society and at some point even thought that ‘maybe the task wasn’t for me’. When I did decide to go for it, I worked extra, extra hard… It didn’t help being young, and unfortunately it doesn’t help being old sometimes as well for a woman so you just don’t know when its the right time, if there is ever one. And yes I can certainly say I had to work super hard to prove that I can do the same work that a man can do”.

Q: What would a fair world for men and women look like for you?

Wozani: “The interesting thing is I actually don’t know. I think the lines in everything have been blurred so much that I don’t even know what would look good and what wouldn’t. To try and answer that though; I’d like everybody to get recognised for the work that they do regardless of where it is or who they are. I’d like strength to be recognised regardless of what area or what element of it there is, and I think that would make a perfect world for a woman. And by recognition I mean should get paid for, rewarded and seen as hard work.”

For any man who’s ever wondered about male privilege, this is a good introduction. I’ll be collaborating with influential women like Wozani to share a series of posters on male privilege using the hashtags. #uPSIDEdOWNwORLD and #SeedsofChange. Look out for updates on the blog and on social media and don’t forget to let us know what you think in the comments section below. A big thank you to Wozani for taking time to let us into the dynamics of #MalePrivilege.

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Winning Young Women: by Ashel Dube

My name is Ashel Dube and I am a young woman aged 19. I live in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and I am a proud young African  woman.IMG-20150308-WA0002

Failure, disappointment and defeat are three potent words, different in meaning but united in effect. I overcome their destructive power by realizing that as a young African woman it is my duty to be at war with myself and to achieve success in what I do. I have come to understand that I should never give up because no one else can fulfill my destiny for me.

I believe the biggest threat to my success is if I accept defeat in the face of failure and disappointment. I know I have failed a test at school once, twice, three times or more. I have failed to be there for someone when they needed me the most. In short I have experienced failure one too many times to know what it is and what it feels like. In a similar way, I have felt disappointment and the sadness that comes when something has not happened or something does not occur as I expect.

However, I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I had allowed failure and disappointment to make me believe that I couldn’t achieve success, that I should stop trying and just give up. You see, defeat will come into my life if I allow it; if I let my hope die down, if I make myself believe I am a disgrace to mankind and if I tell myself it is impossible. Instead, I have chosen to see the blessing in disguise in my failure and understand that the Living God allowed this to happen for a reason.

How I’ve overcome failure and disappointment has also been through understanding that I have to go through failure and be disappointed in life. After experiencing disappointment, I am in a position to identify the next step to take and what I need to change so that I don’t go through the same disappointment again. I appreciate the learning value of failure and disappointment but I do not let it defeat me. I pick myself up, remember the reason behind my attempt in the first place then change what I feel led me to the process and try again.

You can take this process as the same process you go through when you lose a loved one. You accept that they are gone, once you do that you are able to grieve and after grieving you try to avoid falling apart emotionally and then try to move on.

The future of women in the world is currently in danger simply because as young women, when we fail and get disappointed, we accept defeat. Don’t get me wrong, disappointment and failure are to be expected in everyone’s life but the problem comes when we accept defeat and vow to leave what we wanted to do for the next person. We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of the next generation, the success we desire should be ours to live and experience.

So I say to all the young African  women and girls: appreciate the learning value of failure and allow yourself to go through the normal feeling of disappointment. Acceptance of defeat is what I do not want for you, so deny defeat and instead continue to try to make a success out of your first failure. So let’s rise up as women and not let defeat deprive us from achieving success.

The silent men

man__s_silhouette_by_tahaelraaid-d4s41x6‪#‎HeForShe‬ I want to take a moment to recognize the silent change-makers; the ‘ones’. The individuals who fight the hardest battles with no recognition, no mention or retweet.

We may shout about gender equality but they live it, we may jump and wave for attention but they stand unmoved, unflinching in their love and respect for women and girls. Continue reading “The silent men”

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WHY I CARE ABOUT GIRLS AND WOMEN

Girls' Globe

My name is Yemurai Nyoni and I’m a young man aged 23 from Zimbabwe. At many points in my brief history as an activist for women and girls health I have been asked one question, “Why do you care?” My family, friends and colleagues have asked me to explain why I’m so passionate about changing the development status of women and girls, particularly as a young African man. To be honest in my society it’s unusual for a young man to look out for the interests of women, it’s simply unmanly and seen as a sign of weakness. I don’t really know how I landed in this space but I’m very confident of the reasons why I decided to stay.

IT’S A WOMAN’S WORLD

In the words of Her Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission

Women form half of the world population and give birth to the other half.

Development is…

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All Children All Rights – The Day of the Girl

Speech by Kudzai Taranhike the Junior Mayoress of the Bulawayo Junior City Council for the Day of the Girl

“The principle of ‘All children, All rights‘ is still much too far to be a reality”, these words were said by the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan in the year 2000 and yet this has still proven to be true. A pleasant day to you all, I am the Junior Mayoress of the City of Bulawayo Kudzai Taranhike. It is an honor to be standing in your presence as it is a day declared to celebrate the existence of the girl child.

ImageLadies and gentlemen, today the world has chosen to focus on girls like me and I’m happy that we’ve come together to commemorate this very important day. I’m however pained by the numerous challenges that we as girls face each and every day of our lives. More than 110 million children women worldwide are currently not going to school, and surprisingly enough 60% of these are girls and my question is why? Even worse, research has shown that in some Sub-Saharan countries, adolescent girls have HIV infection rates of up to five times higher than adolescent boys. Ladies and gentlemen I would like to pose a question to you right now. Why is it that girls are facing such painful situations in their lives?

The key reason to girls facing all these problems is because of their vulnerability as compared to the opposite sex. We as girls are exposed to danger and various forms of abuse like child labor because we are unable to defend ourselves. This is something that I believe should come to an end.

I‘m amazed at the increasing rate of teenage pregnancies in our country. The rate of teenage pregnancies is at its highest peak as we speak. This, ladies and gentlemen is a major problem in our society because the girl suffers most. In most cases this results in her dropping out of school and being unable to achieve their dreams. This year’s theme is ‘Innovating for Girls’ Education’ and I’m  sure you’re wondering how we’re going to do this. The answer is simple, we must unite as girls ourselves and make sure that we’re not taken advantage of.

Girls of our age are not exposed to enough resources to go to school and I strongly believe that we need to deploy mobile technology for teaching and learning to reach girls, especially in remote areas. We need to improve public and private transportation for girls to get to school. Corporate mentorship programs to help girls acquire critical work and leadership skills should also be introduced.

As we focus on education, there is a stereotype that has said that science subjects are only for boys, but NO!, this is not true and that is why I believe that there should be provision of science and technology courses targeted at girls in schools, universities and vocational training programs.

In addition to this there has been a disturbing issue that’s affecting the girl child which is child marriages. This culture has crippled the girl child and we as girls say that this should stop now. That is why we want the revision of school curricular to integrate positive messages on gender norms related to violence, child marriages, sexual and reproductive health and female family roles.

According to the Millennium report of the United Nations, shortchanging girls is not only a matter of gender discrimination, it is bad economics and social policy. Experience has shown over and over again that the investment in girls’ education translates directly and quickly into better health care, declining fertility, poverty reduction and better overall economic performance.

In conclusion I would like to encourage girls, like myself, to be the light of the world and be girls who are content with who they are. Let us desist from the love of money and work hard towards building a brighter future for ourselves.

My final words to the girls out there are that let us work towards being educated ladies, who in the future will not depend on anyone else to earn a decent living. Let us depend on God, our destiny is in him.

Young Women Taking Charge of their Destiny

A 24 year-old Nigerian Medical Doctor, Oluwasola Wilton shares her life philosophy and offers a few doses of inspiration to young women seeking to make a difference.

A world worth re-living

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My name is Ashel Dube and I am a young woman aged 17. I live in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and I am a proud African young woman.

What kind of world do I want to leave for my children?
I will take it from the kind of world I live in now. It is a world I can’t say if given the opportunity I would re-live. It is a world I can’t say if it was on fire I would save it from the fire. So many things have gone wrong, children don’t know who they are or where they come from because they are too busy denying their own identity just to ‘fit in’. They now live for the moment because life and its ‘poison’ are better than actually preparing for the future.

So what kind of world do I want to leave for my children? Is it this world? No, I want to leave a world where my children are able to be themselves without having to change anything about their looks, behavior or likes for them to be ‘well liked’. A world where my children know that where they are going is what matters rather than where they come from. I want to leave a world where their bigger focus is on the self, the spiritual self that drives not the flesh but the soul. A world where they are in great touch with the Lord and do not prioritize the material things but take them as a blessing from God. Lastly I want to leave a world for my children where their future is planned for, a world where they know that all their dreams and wishes can be put to reality through effort and dedication.

What kind of world do I want to live in?
To risk sounding like an idealist, I would say I want to live in a world where I’m free to express myself and be who I am. A world that does not limit me to be what I want to be on the basis of my sex, age, race or religious beliefs. This world that I say I want to live in seems to be a dream not because we as the human race are incapable of building such a world but because we seem to have chosen not to respond to the human part within us. I mean we can have that world if we wanted to because after all the world’s best inventors did come from this world that we say we live in.

I want to live in a world where there is a significant difference between us humans and the animals, for the animals know no mother, respect no elder and fear no error. I want to live in a world where I can have a sense of belonging and where people know the real meaning of self-respect. A world where the girl child is not seen as an object but as a human who has an equal ability to change the world just as a boy child. Finally I want to live in a world where all impossible things can be made possible because if something is impossible it becomes a barrier to your imagined ‘happy’ future.

Matters of the Heart

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERABy Sue-Ellen Memo:

The best and most beautiful things in life or in the world cannot be seen or touched but they’re felt with the heart. I am a woman of love, who sacrifices a lot for her loved ones. I believe that some of the greatest things in life are unseen that’s why we close our eyes when we kiss, cry or dream. So is love, it’s unseen but it is the key to a pure and clean soul.

I am a woman who never regrets anything in life and I’m open to new possibilities. I believe that if you love a person and they don’t seem to love you the same way just wait for love to grow in their hearts. If it doesn’t grow in their hearts, be content that it grew in yours. There are words you might expect from the one you love but don’t be so deaf not to hear them from the one who says them from the heart.

Don’t let go of the one you love if you feel you can work things out, don’t leave if you still love that person. It takes a second to get a crush, an hour to like someone but a lifetime to forget someone. Don’t go for looks, they might be deceiving, don’t go for wealth that fades away but go for someone who makes you happy. Always know that true love begins when nothing is looked for in return. I am a woman in love.

Love is not about how much you say “I love you but how much  can you prove that its true”. Talk is cheap, if you like someone, tell them, if you miss them show it, if you love them prove it. I believe if a person puts up with you its because he or she loves you. Make it worth his/her while, love them back.

I think if a person understands your mistakes, sticks through them, smiles even though you’ve done nothing for them, its obvious that person is a keeper so love them to the fullest.

If you love someone tell them because hearts are often left broken by words unspoken. I believe in love, I believe in fairy-tales.  I am a woman of love.

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An African Princess

By Lixy Nonty Fleuri:

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The fact that l am a young African woman makes me special. My values and the traditions that l uphold define the unique individual l am. Continue reading “An African Princess”

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