Self-esteem bottoms out at the bottom of Africa

2009-11-28 11:35

I AM back in South

Africa after about a year-and-a-half of having the time of my life in West

Africa. How does it feel to be home? Sad.

Home should be a safe and happy space.

That sacred place in all the world where you know you will rest tranquil,

assured that you never have to fight for your well-being because you are at home

with all the comforts associated with it.

South Africa, as my home, does not sit well with me. The reason

being that this (black) woman ­never feels safe here.

This I was reminded of by

a sign urging all who read it to observe the yearly 16 Days of Activism against

gender violence.

But I cannot observe rituals I hate. And I hate gender violence

with every fibre of my being.

And with violence against women and children being the order of the

day in this country, I do not feel safe and protected here.

The ritual 16 days make me all the more ­uneasy about South Africa.

How sick are we to need 16 days to remind men to treat women like people?


sad is it that we need two weeks a year to urge ­women to say no, walk away and

reclaim their ­dignity?

I know they are a noble and necessary 16 days. But come on!

Do we need a national yearly reminder to be ­humane, respectful and

dignified? I believe not.

And that will happen when women stop mistaking themselves for


I choose to focus on the black race because that is my life. Gather

even two of us and the final word on gender violence is that we are all affected

as direct victims or observers.

If it’s not you, then it’s someone in your immediate family, a

relative or a friend.

This necessitates the 16 days of activism, which I think

are as good as the HIV/Aids awareness billboards; good-for- nothing occupations

of public space because words and slogans are nothing compared to action.

And I have never encountered a group of people more passive or as

victimised by circumstances as the black women of this nation.

This is a pity.

We do not come from weak people.

So why are we justifying instead of fighting this ever-escalating


The fact is: love without respect is nothing.

Furthermore, people

treat us as good or as bad as we treat ourselves. Stay after the first beating

and you are inviting future beatings. That is a fact.

And this year, as this horrible ritual of begging women to respect

themselves turns a year younger than our democracy, I dare every black woman to

do three things.

Firstly, get over the lies about culture, tradition and


Secondly, we need to stop making being in a relationship the end

all and be all. Toxic is poisonous, it breaks self-esteem and, sooner than

later, the soul.

Which begs the question: are women so ­desperate as to be

defined by a relationship?

Lastly, we need to stop making excuses. They ­exacerbate domestic

violence. It’s called giving in to love and false hope.

So what if you love him,

what if he is your baby’s daddy and what if your family would feel scandalised?

It is not in our typically ferocious African woman nature to accept

being doormats. Our ancestors have fought greater enemies and won.

So why are we

not insisting on being treated with dignity?

Naturally, you cannot ask from others what you cannot give to

yourself. And self-respect is never putting up with abuse and the degradation

that comes with it – nje and qha!

It is because we have reduced ourselves to the same low-level to

which patriarchy thinks we belong that this evil persists.

It is a FACT: we are

just as guilty as the men when it comes to the persistent problem called

domestic violence.

Best we walk out immediately and assert that we are not any man’s

bitch than wait upon a person to respect us because that will be a very long and

destructive wait.


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