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International Women’s Day, celebrated on the 8th  of March every year, is a day called to celebrate the achievements of women in the world and also a day to further advocate for gender equality. Here in South Africa, where gender relations are incredibly fraught to say the least evidenced by the gross levels of inequality and gender-based violence that plagues our country – you might ask what there is to celebrate about being a woman. It is important to cling on to our optimism nonetheless, so we asked our Executive Team:

1. what it means to be a woman?

2. which South African women we look towards? ,

3. and what we hope for women in the future? 

(The answers follow the order as listed above)

Alinaswe

1. Being a woman today is something that is ever-changing, and I think my womanhood is defined by fluidity and allowing myself to be all the people I need to be for every season in my life. It does not look a specific way, but is intuitive and freeing.

2. Zanele Muholi is a South African woman who inspires me as a queer black artist. She challenges white heteronormativity which is very inspiring to me.

3. My hope for women is that we can one day experience the joys of a world that truly cares for us, and a world that is truly safe for us.

Chelsea-Blair

1. To be a woman in 2021 is an empowering experience, the fact that we are so resilient and powerhouses in every sphere we find ourselves in is inspiring. We are amazing sisters, moms, daughters as well as students, business women, the list is endless! But at the same time, it’s scary to be a woman in South Africa because of high levels of GBV including rape and murders. Because as much as mainstream media demands respect for woman’s bodies, that advocacy is hard to find in South African men, which has instilled a fear in me as a woman in South Africa.

2.I’m extremely inspired by my mother, she’s an amazing role model and I aspire to be as selfless and as powerful as she is, both as a nurturing matriarch in our family, and the amazing business person she is at work. She is extremely kind and hard-working, intelligent and understanding. She is an amazing example of how women are powerhouses both at home and at work.

3. I hope to see more support amongst all women, especially black women, black queer women, and transgender black women. These are women that are constantly being targeted and under-supported. I’d love to see more people supporting these groups of women the same way that they do to cisgender non-POC women.

Motsi

1. I think that womanhood holds a sense of duality. On one hand, we are strong, resilient warriors while also having the ability to be soft, compassionate loving. I think this is what makes us powerful. We are dynamic beings who are multifaceted. That is what it means to be a woman for me in 2021.

2. Shudu, I guess.

3. I think that what I’ve come to learn in the last couple of years is that there is no straight definition of what a woman is. This new age of intersectionality allows the term “women” to be flexible and no longer exclusive to biological traits. For the future, I wish that we become more accepting of those who identify as women no matter the non-conformity.

Natasha

1. To be a womxn in 2021 is to be stuck within a constant dichotomy of 'my god, look how far we've come' and 'we still have so far to go'. Waking up in my body is simultaneously overwhelmingly empowering and utterly terrifying. Above all else, I think that being a womxn today is, as it always has been, to stand centre stage in the universal fight for justice, representation, and freedom from discrimination. 

2. One of my all-time heroines is Caster Semenya. There are very few things as inspiring as a black womxn who's unafraid to be unapologetic. Her resilience encapsulates the energy I wish to bring forward into the world, as a womxn. I reject the notion that something as complicated as womxnhood (and to a larger extent: gender) is to be defined by a single biological marker. It makes me proud that a South African womxn is at the forefront of this; refusing to conform to this patriarchal master narrative. 

3. My hope for womxn in the future is collaboration. I wholeheartedly believe that the way forward is an intersectional approach to feminism. We are not in this fight alone, and there is no future for womxn unless it includes ALL womxn. I wish for no more competition, and I put my faith in a future that is free from us being pitted against each other, in an attempt to 'divide and conquer'. For womxn here at home, I long for a future in which our bodies cease to be collateral damage in an epidemic of GBV.  

Robyn

1. Being a woman in 2021 and more specifically in South Africa means being able to face harassment at work, in the uber, at home, with friends, or on a night out and still be able to show up as a friend, a sister, a mother, and a leader.  For me when asked what being a woman in 2021 means the first word that comes to mind is strength. Strength to be a woman. 

2. Farai Mubaiwa, I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at the varsity news conference and I was immediately captured by the way she spoke of our country, its youth and its challenges with such an insightful understanding and compassion. I am also inspired daily by Masego Morgan @coconutcracked who is the co-creator of CNCS alongside Stella Hertantyo. I have followed Masego on Instagram for a while and what inspires me is how openly and honestly, she speaks about social issues on her Instagram, while still maintaining a witty and happy go lucky attitude. Also seeing two women (Stella and Masego) quite close in age to myself making such big strides in the sustainable community is so inspiring.

3. On an everyday personal level I hope to see women in the future not being too harsh on ourselves. Often women carry so much external pressure to be a certain way to obtain certain things, or even look a certain way and it shouldn’t have to be like this- we need to be more kind to ourselves. 

Rufaro

1. Being a woman in 2021 is still being defined for me.

2. All of the women working in the healthcare sector.

3. Quite simply, rest.

Saadiqah

1. Being a woman in 2021 is terrifying, to put it plainly. Terrifying because there are so many terrific women to look up to, who have proven to be trailblazers and truly awe inspiring. And also terrifying, because even with the constant fight for equality, we are still in so much societal danger - all because of sex and gender. 

2. I would like to say that my sisters and mother are inspiring to me. Being a Cape Malay, Muslim woman, has proven its difficulties in society, but they continue to break the moulds set out for us. They have taught me hard work, resilience, and self-confidence not only at work, but in their everyday life. While they each possess their own special qualities, they each have been shining examples of good character, strength, confidence, humility, compassion and determination.

3. My hope for our future is unity and support for one another. We've been fighting the same fight, yet we still find ourselves divided in community. I hope that in the future, all women are able to unite, inspire and lead with love and passion, not only ourselves, but the generations to come.

Sherie

1. With everything going on in the world, with everyone that is trying to deal with all these obstacles, I need to be my loudest cheerleader. I need to believe in myself and everything that I do because I was doubted the minute I came into the world as a woman so I need my support over the doubt others can place in my mind. 

2.Lilian Ngoyi, Koketso Moeti & Fasiha Hassan.

3.That women would be able to take a walk during the day alone without feeling terrified, for women to be held with higher respect without being referred to as a mother or a daughter or a sister but rather as a human being.

Taylah

1. Being a woman in 2021 remains challenging in terms of the issues we face, but I feel that we continue to make strides towards a better and safer tomorrow

2. My mother. Very cliché, I know. But she truly does inspire me. She grew up in a difficult era, and was told she could never have children. She had her miracle baby at 40 years old and almost died giving birth to me. She endured many obstacles in life; an abusive relationship, the death of her parents and other family members, financial struggles. Despite all that she lost, she never stopped giving. She took in an 8 month old baby, who was related to her sister, and later took in the baby's brother too. They became my siblings and she adopted them. She is a single mother and put me through university to get a degree. Moving away from my childhood home gave me a different perspective on things and i can only dream of one day having her perseverance and succeeding as she did.

3. I want women to be heard. I feel as though we're still constantly being dismissed or ignored and that cannot continue

We hope that on this Women's Day, we are all able to reflect on womanhood means today and how we can be apart of what we dream for women in the future.

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