It is no surprise to women living in South Africa that we face a wide range of challenges. There are high crime rates, domestic violence, child abuse, HIV/AIDS, poverty, poor local government delivery and unemployment. Many women also have the role of motherhood, which is a central role in our country. Whether it be a grandmother as a primary caregiver of their grandkids, an aunt or even a sibling. And while great strides have been made over the years, gender discrimination still takes place in the workplace, in policy development and implementation, in the roles assigned in familial structures and religious institutions, women are still poorly represented; with some notable exceptions.
Knowing all the statistics….
Knowing that so many women in our country are victims of gender-based violence and femicide…
Knowing that we call for march-after-march, shouting for policy change, funding towards projects…
What else can we do?
As a NGO made up of women we declare that we need to be fierce wherever we are. As a team of women we have faced many challenges, as well as discrimination within the NGO sphere and through advocating for policy change. As a team, we have learnt to become Fierce! “Fierce comes from the Latin ferus ‘wild animal.’ It means strong, proud, dangerous and ready to roar.”
Don’t you just love that?
“Ready to roar!”
As South African women we are strong- every single day we wake up and navigate a dangerous country:
- making sure we are walking in safe areas,
- we’ve had to take criticism from men in the workplace,
- bite our tongue when we walk past men on the street who catcall,
- fear of speaking up in case of being rejected or pushed aside,
- we navigate relationships hoping they are healthy ones
- and so much more.
So how exactly do we become fierce?
It begins with knowing our worth and our value.
Being fierce means knowing our healthy boundaries, taking care of ourselves so that we can then extend care to others- remember, when we are on an airplane always put the oxygen mask on yourselves first before attending to others. It is the same for us. As women, we are taught that it is okay to sacrifice ourselves for the happiness of others, and this has deep consequences for the type of relationships we find ourselves in, and how we allow people to treat us.
Being fierce means standing up in the face of adversity and this might be marching up to parliament and fighting for women’s rights. But it also means standing up to a bully, it means saying no. It’s challenging those societal norms that have been put on us, and it means taking care of our mental health to cope through it all. Being a fierce woman does not only mean standing up, being brave and roaring but it means that we need to love ourselves first. Without self-love and self-respect, people will more likely take advantage.
Being fierce means empowering ourselves as women. Women’s empowerment is promoting women’s sense of self-worth, their ability to determine their own choices, and their right to influence social change for themselves and others. Empowering women is essential to the health and social development of families, communities and countries.
When women are living safe, fulfilled and productive lives, they can reach their full potential. contributing their skills to the workforce and can raise happier and healthier children. They are also able to help fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.
It is up to all of us to ensure that women empowerment becomes a lived reality.
So if you are a man in the workplace…
How do we ensure that we uplift women’s voices in the workplace? How do you ensure there is good women leadership representation on every level of management?
How do we support each other? How do we shine light on each other’s strengths? How do we ensure that we are networking and sharing resources, and standing up for each other?
We cannot accept the status quo that makes women fearful every day, where women are raped, tortured, killed, beaten, behind in education and left out of the economic and social mainstream. By working together we can ensure a societal shift so that women can take their rightful place and not only contribute to the country’s socio-economic growth and development, but also to the individual thriving and flourishing in one another’s lives as we choose to pursue our individual passions. We want to see women thrive. Because when women thrive, families thrive and when families thrive- we have stronger communities.
Women, let’s be Fierce….Together!
Written by Danielle Moosajie