Guest Column

OPINION: The next move for woman empowerment is innovation

2019-08-31 12:00
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What we need is to be smart in our quest for solutions and to examine the next move with a gender lens, as I believe a powerful strategy to transform women's lives could emerge, writes Dr Anna Mokgokong.

Women's empowerment and gender equality are revolutions that continue from generation to generation. As the struggle continues, we constantly need to rethink strategies and the agenda for moving women forward and for adapting to new realities.

After many declarations for gender parity, such as the adoption of the Women's Charter 65 years ago, the adoption of the Women's Charter for Effective Equality 25 years ago, and 24 years after our country signed the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, there is a need for a new agenda - one that reflects our values and vision and one that's relevant and reflects the basics of the fourth industrial revolution.

We need to realise that the world has and is evolving and the digital age has taken every aspect of our lives by storm. So we cannot apply analogue solutions to digital problems and challenges. We need to be innovative in how we approach the next move for women's empowerment.

What we need is to be smart in our quest for solutions and to examine the next move with a gender lens as I believe a powerful strategy to transform women's lives could emerge.

Innovation

One of the key areas we need look into in the next move for women's empowerment is innovation.

Though it may pose opportunities and challenges, it will be our driving force to bring about significant change in the empowerment of women.

Innovation is part of the fourth industrial revolution. Innovations would be catalytic in triggering broad-based shifts in women's opportunities and options, as well as societal attitudes about men and women, and in institutions such as families, places of work and political structures. If we do not have enough women in the fourth industrial revolution, we will not get the variety of solutions that are needed by women and girls.

More than any time in history, the world is poised to leverage innovation to improve the lives of all women and empower them to realise their potential. Seizing this pivotal moment can help realise meaningful change for a majority of women in the world.

As we move forward for women's empowerment, let's remember to keep our eyes on our prize. Be unshaken irrespective of situations that are thrown our way and keep excelling in everything we do.

By remaining graceful in everything, you gain the respect of other people. 

We need to ask ourselves what are innovative ideas we should be thinking about for moving forward and empowering women.

Bringing men on board

Firstly, this journey of the next move needs to bring men on board. We need them. Our men are able to mobilise co-operation, commitment and resources.

Support from powerful male authority figures or other high-status men is often essential for breaking down resistance to challenging the status quo and altering social norms. Men need to support our cause by realising that we also 'belong' to the boys club and that they must bring women in.

Thus, in this way, the barriers of entry in other facets of life become easier. So, strategic partnerships with men should be seen as collaboration as opposed to women trying to prove a point.

We also need to have a lot of dynamic and influential women champions to play an important role in launching or facilitating innovations that empower women.

Women champions influence the agenda and the direction of successful innovations from the outset.

Well-connected women with access to important resources can create opportunities for others to break into the market without having to experience what they went through. In that way, it catapults women's empowerment progress and also shapes the direction of progress once innovation is initiated. 

I believe, as women, we need not settle for mediocrity. Maybe this is the reason things move at a snail's pace and we are where we are, because we do the bare, bare minimum. We have no aspirations to do more and exceed expectations.

What does outdoing yourself mean? It means you've gone beyond your usual efforts, you have bettered your standards and exceeded your own expectations. There are many women who have done that, including the late Dr Thandi Ndlovu, a titan in advancing issues of women and a shining light who significantly helped to advance the cause of women in business.

I believe that in the next move for women's empowerment, outdoing ourselves should be an integral part of all our endeavours. Whether we are in business, academia or the corporate word, we need to hold ourselves to high standards and exceed expectations.

For us to make it and break barriers and go where the eagles dare, we need to be disciplined, extremely tenacious, have turnstile resilience and continue excelling relentlessly in our respective fields. Of importance is to have a caring attitude towards one another as women, support each other and hold each other's hands as women.

'Victim' approach

As we move forward, assuming the "victim" approach – will not cut it. We have no excuses anymore. As the world is changing, we need to adapt or ship out.

Gone are the days of using that excuse for a lack of growth and development and the ability to outdo yourself in your area of expertise.

True leadership is characterised by holding people by the hand when you see them lagging behind, and fight to keep and promote any promising employee. Women are known to oppress and suppress others. And unfortunately some of the negative forces we encounter in the work place are from women because we're competing for the same pie that seems small and we all want a share.

Only those who are tough and strong will survive. So, we need to have empathy; it is a dichotomy of capabilities as a leader and supervisor. We need to embrace the spirit and culture of sisterhood and comradeship.

For example, as a woman I have had to fight for my space in the corporate world. And in many instances, I have been the first and only woman in a non-executive board of directors.

When you find yourself in the unfortunate position of being the only woman amongst men at work – a rose among the thorns - you would need to be calm and stay calm, because it takes a little bit of time to convince our male counterparts about what needs to be done.

We are valuable members of society. We are important. We are a valuable part of this world. Our presence is powerful. As the struggle for women's empowerment continues, we need to constantly rethink strategies to adapt and conquer.

- Dr Anna Mokgokong, who recently received the Charlotte Mannya-Maxeke Institute Women of Firsts and the Southern Africa Development Community Lifetime Achiever Awards, is the chairperson of Afrocentric Group, South Africa's largest health administration and medical risk management solutions provider, which owns health companies such as Medscheme.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    women's month
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