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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

As we have just celebrated National Women’s Day on the 9th of August, I’ve been spending some time thinking about what being a woman of colour is like. More specifically what being a woman of colour in South Africa feels like.  

It is first important to acknowledge that while there are multitudes of women in South Africa who identify as people of colour, there are indeed vast differences in each story and experience. I identify as a Coloured South African woman and with this come differences to South African women who would identify as Black or Asian. When thinking about my life experiences, I often think about how as a woman of colour I do still hold certain privileges that others do not. There will always be certain elements about other women’s experiences that I will never understand. When asking my sister about how she feels to be a woman of colour in South Africa, she brought up the problematics of colourism and how she and I have been afforded different treatments simply based on one’s skin tone being darker than another’s. 

When thinking about how to write this article, I began by discussing it with a friend. She said she feels that women of colour in South Africa can lead opposite lives due to aspects like exposure to resources, and treatment by other people. She went on to explain how she feels as a Black woman in South Africa. As a person in the majority of the general population, she still finds comfort in seeing people who look like her in spaces. The unfortunate reality is that while two women in South Africa can identify as women of colour, they will face different experiences.  They can range from resource access to differing representation in the media. Majority of the media we consume today holds Western perspectives and, in turn, I have not seen much coloured representation. I have also come to understand that part of being a woman of colour in South Africa means being made aware of my presence in certain spaces.  

We would like to think that being a woman in today’s South Africa is easier than decades earlier, and while it might be, sexism remains. With what National Women’s Day means on a historical level, I took to asking another woman in my life about her experience: My mother. I asked her how she feels to be a woman of colour in South Africa. She noted that she could see progress over the years, and that as a teacher, she remembered a time when male teachers were paid more than their female counterparts. Historically, men have been afforded more opportunities than women, and significantly more compared to women of colour. My mother remarked that when applying for jobs at schools she often found herself approaching schools with staff consisting of majority people of colour, because she did not think she would be accepted into majority white schools.  

This women’s month I hope we all take time to appreciate the women in our lives and how far the women of South Africa have come. As a woman of colour in South Africa, I look forward to seeing what the future holds for us. One with more opportunities and openings. 

Sarah has recently finished her fourth year at the University of Cape Town focusing her postgraduate honours degree in Linguistics. She completed her undergraduate in 2021 with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Linguistics, English Literature and Media Studies. She enjoys learning languages and writing, as well as sitcoms and technology.