“Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo!

Chapter 7 of my latest book, “De/constructing brand Africa: A Practitioner’s Perspective”, is dedicated to mainstreaming issues pertaining to the empowerment of women. It’s titled is derived from the quote above, Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo!”, which was a clarion call chanted by gallant women who marked to the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest against the pass laws. I’m revisiting this chapter as we have just launched “The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign” which is a United Nations campaign which takes place annually from 25 November (International Day of No Violence against Women) to 10 December (International Human Rights Day). In between the parameters of this period we also commemorate days such as the “World Aids Day” on 1 December and the “International Day for Persons with Disabilities” on 3 December every year. The 16 Days Campaign focuses “on raising awareness to the devastating impact that gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) has on women and children, and the social fabric of our society,” to the South African government statement.

The theme for the Campaign for 2022 is: “Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment to build Women’s Resilience against Gender-Based Violence and Femicide: Connect, Collaborate, Contract!”

Allow me in this week’s edition to focus on the one sector of our society: women. Furthermore, allow me to tap into the weekend buzz of the Joy of Jazz, an annual prestigious jazz jamboree which is hosted by T-Musicman at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, to focus on how women cultural workers – both nationally and internationally – deal with the subject of women empowerment. So let me pay tribute to T-Musicman for having given prominence to women musicians who wowed the music revellers over the weekend. These includdd Gloria Bosman, Msake, Brenda Mtambo, Maleh, Thandiswa Mazwai, Ms Elisa the Selector, Zamajobe and the Zimbabwean vocalist and mbira player, Hope Masike.

In her interview with Moroetsana Serame, our jazz diva, Simphiwe Dana, put it matter-of-factly: “We need to invest more in woman empowerment and in developing young talent.”

We should also deal with this subject recalling that the theme for South Africa’s “Women’s Month” celebration in August this year was “Women’s Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment: Building Back Better for Women’s Resilience!” This was a call to action to all of society, government and social partners to take tangible steps forward in responding to the most persistent challenges affecting the lives of women and girls.

During the International Women’s Dsy celebration in March this year, my colleague, Nthambeleni Gabara, asked riveting questions in his article published in this news portal, and I have to quote him verbatim:

  • What is the impact of women currently occupying strategic positions in the public service space, state-owned entities and the private sector in the country concerning the total emancipation of women?
  • Are women in leadership speaking loud enough? 
  • What role are women leaders playing to break the chains of gender-based violence and dependency for marginalised women in townships and rural areas in this country? 
  • Finally, if you are a woman leader occupying a strategic position in this country, how would you like to be remembered… what would be your legacy in terms of providing solutions to the day-to-day challenges faced by women in your workplace and society in general? 

Although the appreciation of the arts is highly subjective, I believe they unite us across the race, gender, creed, age and even political spectrums more than dividing us. So let me borrow a few women empowering quotes from the world’s cultural icons. Kerry Washington has advised: “Learn to embrace your own unique beauty, celebrate your unique gifts with confidence. Your imperfections are actually a gift.” In concurring, Beyoncé believes we’ve reached these heights endowed with this special characteristic too: “The most alluring thing a woman can have is confidence.”

I believe these quotes should be looked at within the context of the 1956 women’s clarion call: “Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo!” which is the opening opening salvo of this commentary. Parallel to this could be our traditional Setswana words of wisdom: “Mmangwana o tshwara thipa ka bogaleng” – which has been translated by poet Oswald Mtshali as “a mother holds the knife by the blade”. A mother in this context isn’t biological but speaks to nationhood as Brigham Young mused: “You educate a man, you educate a person; you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” And Cher puts it matter-of-factly: “Women are the real architects of society.”

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who warned us against “the danger of a single narrative”, has said: “I have chosen to no longer be apologetic for my femaleness and my femininity. And I want to be respected in all of my femaleness because I deserve to be.” 

While Madonna affirms women by declaring: “Sisters are making it”, Dolly Parton appreciates women’s greater role in society: “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.”

To those men who feel threatened by women leaders, here’s something that Marilyn Monroe says that you need to know: “Strong women don’t have ‘attitudes’, we have standards.” And Rihanna goes further to unpack it for you: “There’s something special about a woman who dominates in a man’s world. It takes a certain grace, strength, intelligence, fearlessness, and the nerve to never take no for an answer.”

Let me conclude by quoting one of our own, Gcina Mhlophe, who muses: 

If I were to stand on top of a hill
And raise my voice in praise
Of the women of my country
Who have worked throughout their lives
Not for themselves, but for the very life of all Africans
Who would I sing my praises to
I could quote all the names
Yes, but where do I begin.”

Indeed sister Gcina, the list is endless. The few in this house are just representative of the many out there.

Dearest reader, watch out for the social media campaign that Brandhill Africs will be running during this period based on the quotable quotes from these inspirational cultural icons. 

Enjoy your weekend at the Joy of Jazz.

Saul Molobi (FCIM)

PublisherJambo Africa Online
Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer: Brandhill Africa™

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