THE ORIGIN OF FEMININE DOWNFALL:WOMEN
By: Bliss Ndapasowa
Down-trodden at every turn, patting your back, yet laughing as soon as it’s turned. “I love your shoes’’, then I ponder with a frown, “how on earth did she afford them?”.
That is my nature, my attitude, my behaviour…. I blame men for my shame, for all the challenges I encounter, for my failures and iniquities; yet I am the catalyst of my own misfortunes.
I am…. a WOMAN….
We choose to interrogate and weigh our value at every chance we get. “Bearers and nurturers of children, mothers of the earth; epitome of mankind’s success,” in the words of the poet; but without confronting our weaknesses, all is in vain!
Womanhood was brought into light at the 16th South African Women’s Arts Festival intergenerational dialogue. The ground breaking discussion was hosted by The Playhouse Company together with the Democracy Development Program in Durban, in celebration of women’s month.
The topic under discussion- “Having it all- Work and family life in the 21st century,” was facilitated by TV personality, Lebo Mashile. The panel of guest speakers came from various sectors including business, legal and political. The panel comprised renowned author, Malika Ndlovu, Dr Sindiwe Magona, Advocate Thato Tsautse, chairperson of the Playhouse board Thandiwe January-Mclean and Hon. Thandiwe Babalwa Sunduza.
Feminist and human rights movements were acknowledged for the recognition of women as valuable contributors to society.The discussion however, did acknowledge women’s role in contributing to their own reality.
Hon. Sunduza, from the portfolio of Arts and Culture, talked about her personal experience in 2008 when she was appointed as the youngest member of parliament.
“As a fresh one, I expected the mothers to groom and nurture me, but it turned out to be the opposite.” She expressed her disappointment with the behaviour of fellow women in parliament towards her. Sunduza further explained that she can proudly proclaim that she has become the bold and unshakeable MP despite this. She added that they would correct her whenever she dressed inappropriately, give her advice on how to handle certain types of people and taught her basic morals that she should uphold so as to make it as a female politician. She further declared that it is a shame that women shun each other when they are supposed to celebrate women empowerment, and then go on and mumble about male dominancy.
Education was one of the issues she is passionate about, calling education ‘the key to freedom’. “We can’t liberate this country without education,” she said. She bluntly condemned teenage pregnancy and said with this issue, you have no one to blame but yourself.
In accordance, author /poet/ playwriter and peer educator, Dr Magona delved into sexuality as one of the challenges pulling down young women of today.
“Sexuality is something you can manage”, she affirmed as she referred to unplanned pregnancy. She explained that children need nurturing, and this can be achieved by a firmly rooted individual. “How firm are you when at any chance you get you open your legs?”, she posed the question directly to the audience.
“Get and move”, she said as she encouraged young women to take charge of their own future. She urged young women to plan and upgrade and not to let their destinies be defined by men. She classified this as a sure guarantee of independence.
“We like oppressing ourselves by imposing foreign cultures in our society.” She also mentioned that women do not support one another, questioning why one would buy a garment in expensive Gucci outlets, for example, whilst fellow South African women produce the exact same garment. She declared jealousy is a weakness that African women need to overcome in order to move forward.
Chairlady of the Playhouse board, Thandiwe January-Mclean, hoisted travel as a factor that breaks stereotypes. Appreciating each other’s culture was her dictum as she sees culture as a fundamental key in bringing different people together.
“Travel is an education of a different kind, it breaks the prejudices and uneducated perceptions that bring a people down,” she said. She blamed all racial and xenophobic tendencies on confinement as she believes the people of South Africa lack exposure. It was, however, her call that women widely support and uplift each other regardless of race and ethnic background.
As the speakers conversed with the audience, a vital point was raised that such dialogues be made accessible to women residing in rural areas as they are in most need of such constructive ideas. Therefore, the Democracy Development Programme promised to look into that angle.
These weaknesses follow us, regardless of which part of society we exist in, be it social, political, legal, or informal. It is therefore a shame that we wait for a special month to raise these practical issues. The onus is however on us, women of today, to remove the barriers that further opress our being.