By Reneé Thompson, Co-Founder of Susters 4 Life and Managing Director of Thompson Trust
Women Empowerment in Focus
As we approached Women’s Month, I reflected over my own journey over the past few years and the slow pace at which transformation is taking place. Empowerment for me simply means to become aware of one’s rights and privileges and to fully exercise those rights!
Reflecting on the events of the past year and what is happening on a daily basis, one can only say women are still being oppressed, abused, harassed and our rights violated and this has sadly become our new normal.
We read about women who in 2021 are still forced to give sexual favours to get a job or promotion. Not only do we read about it, but we personally know of this happening at our places of employment, in our communities and places of worship.
We as women then also judge and shame those women, when in fact we should be naming and shaming those men who are exploiting and preying on the vulnerability of women and abusing their positions of power. So the change has to start with us, here, where we work, in our communities and in our churches.
Changing The Mindset
The mind-set of our communities also has to change. To ensure that this happens, laws to protect and defend the rights of women need to be upheld, especially in the workplace and also in our own homes. Because this is where we are being exploited and abused, not by strangers but by those we know and work with.
The last few months and weeks many women and children have been killed, raped and some have taken their own lives as a result. During women’s month gender based violence is highlighted, but those doing the abuse don’t take a holiday during women’s month and also not during the 16 days of activism.
The most brutal and violent crimes against women make headlines, but the daily, emotional and physical abuse endured by so many don’t make the news and if it does, it blows over after the initial public outcry. Domestic violence, gender discrimination is part of our daily lives.
Speaking Up For Women in SA
We don’t need the media to tell our stories, we can do it ourselves, using our own words and speaking in our own languages. Social media is giving us that platform. Already many stories have been brought to light through intense campaigning through the social media, like with the #MeToo campaign. Social media is a powerful tool to promote a cause and share a story.
The change has to take place within us first; women need to start supporting each other, not only in times of hardship but also when one of us makes it, we need to open up access for the rest to follow. Let’s continue to give back to the communities we come from. And demand that our rights be acknowledged and respected at all times – and not only during Women’s Month.
*For more on gender empowerment, check out our bumper 16th edition of the Standard Bank Top Women Leaders publication on Issuu – Digital Publishing Platform – here.
*Stay up to date with all the latest on Top Women in SA, by signing up to the Standard Bank Top Women newsletter – here.