During National Women’s Month, we celebrate the inspiring and courageous work women around the country have done and continue doing to secure women’s rights and empowerment. It is also a time to reflect on what it takes to be a woman today.
Being a woman in modern day South Africa is quite complicated. You’re expected to be smart but keep it under check, lest your male counterparts feel belittled. You should attain education but shouldn’t go so far that potential suitors feel intimidated. You should be independent but not so much so that the man in your life will feel unneeded. Such confusion!
Feelings of excitement, joy, enthusiasm and freedom fill my heart as I think about what it feels like being a woman in this day and age. I’m happy to be a woman because there are so many opportunities for us, there is so much freedom, so many chances to prove yourself. However, tears also fill my eyes as I shrug at the feelings of loneliness, confusion, depression and sorrow when I think about the struggles women still face in 2018. Life is not easy in this complex world that we live in. It is devastating because as you walk down the street you fear for your life, you’re seen as an object to be used, you’re emotionally drained and left to feel vulnerable in a world that is meant to be advanced.
They say we’re free. I’ve expected freedom to come with protection, not the people we trust being the ones that attack us. I expect to be loved and taken care of, not used and abused. As a young woman I realise that in this world you’re actually on your own. You fight all the challenges alone. The unemployment, debt, discrimination in the workplace, sexism, patriarchy, health issues…It’s all too much. But this life has also taught me that it’s not always your fault. Its not your fault that you went to university for four years, completed your degree in record time but remained unemployed while your male counterparts with the same qualifications got employment immediately after graduation, its not your fault that he raped you, it is not your fault that he sees you as a threat because you’re young, educated and ambitious.
For me, Women’s Month is about being who you really are, not hiding behind tears, not competing with men but embracing your womanhood and unearthing your inner beauty as a woman. My advice to my young women? Grab every opportunity that comes your way and do not be apologetic about it. Love yourself. Don’t expect it from anyone; nobody owes you love, only you owe it to yourself. Your journey to self-love will save you from heartache and allow you to be the best that you can be.