Honour the women in your life

2014-08-05 00:00

EACH year, August rolls around and South Africans proudly celebrate the women of 1956 — 20 000 women from all walks of life.

We salute them because they stood together in unity, outside what was then a symbol of oppression, the Union Buildings, in protest. Thus August is a very special month for us and our democracy.

It is the time when we honour women such as Lillian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Dorah Tamana and Albertina Sisulu. These women, and the thousands who joined them, stood up not just for racial equality, but for gender equality as well.

Today, I stand tall as a woman of high standing in society because of the sacrifices they made. Indeed, I chant to them and say: “wathinta umfazi wathint’ imbokodo!” (you strike a woman, you strike a rock!)

When the question is asked: “Who do you attribute your success to?” we always rattle off the most famous names we can think of — yes, those famous names inspire us to dream and to achieve.

I look at it from the inside. I implore you to honour and celebrate the women who enable you to shine on a daily basis, who play an active role in your daily triumphs — women who make it all a little bit easier.

This August, I celebrate my late mother Florence Mkhize, to whom I owe my entire being.

My mother had a big and nurturing heart, which I have inherited. She ensured that each venture I went into, I represented myself with pride and that I never entered into anything half-heartedly. She was, and is even in death, my rock.

My mother in-law Magret Mpisane is another source of strength and inspiration; a woman who has moulded and shaped my thinking and acceptance of being not only my mother’s daughter, but a daughter to her as well. She is a wealth of wisdom when my skies tend to be a little greyer than usual.

When it comes to honouring women, as women, we tend to do so reluctantly and we then celebrate women who are far removed from us.

Yes, it’s good to celebrate the likes of Ngoyi, Helen Suzman and Sisulu, but today we should celebrate the women who selflessly ensure that our everyday lives run a little bit smoother.

This thought came about when we recently lost a dear employee at Zikhulise Group, Malindy Mbeko, who was not just an employee, but a sister and a friend. Even though I was her boss, I learnt a lot from her about how to be around people, especially in the masculine world of construction.

She inspired me to be a better businessperson and employer. Last week, we were all in a tailspin looking for a document for an hour, because no one really took note of how Malindy ran her system. Being the consummate professional she was, everything had to be done in a specific order. We all appreciated and loved her, but on this day her absence was felt in more ways than one.

Thus I look around and say, let’s start honouring those who take the cares and worries off our daily checklists.

Without fail, my day begins at 4 am — giving me time to return e-mails and messages my office has sent through to me, so that I am able to be on the road by 7 am, returning home at 7 pm.

In order for my world to run smoothly, I need a strong support base. Take my housekeeper for instance. This woman serves a very important purpose in my life by ensuring that I am able to run my business and even when I do make that call, she responds with a smile and says: “No worries for you, everything is fine here at home.”

Over the past eight years, she has become a part of our family; she has become my sister.

I could never leave my older sister, Nozipho, off my honour roll. Nozipho, like my husband, is my rock. Nozipho is the one person who is always able to put things into perspective. My life runs smoother knowing she is there.

In my company, I always ensure that people are honoured for their good work and contribution. I strongly believe it is no use showering people with praise when they are no longer with us.

Yes, it is good to celebrate people, but never forget to honour the women around you by acknowledging the good they represent and bring into your life.

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