Young women shouldn’t be left to navigate challenges on their own

Itumeleng Makgato is the president of the pilot Businesswomen’s Association Student Chapter at Wits. Picture by Phelokazi Mbude
Itumeleng Makgato is the president of the pilot Businesswomen’s Association Student Chapter at Wits. Picture by Phelokazi Mbude

Women have long-since masked their brilliance behind veils of anonymity. In South Africa our diversity has allowed several cultures to cook up a cultural assortment of sexism and discrimination.

Over the past few months South Africans have witnessed gross violations against women, and young women have lived in terror of their safety. The BBC alleges that South African women are more likely to be raped than learn to read.

Young women in South Africa have a myriad social and economic challenges to overcome on their journey to success.

On conquering the difficulties of university, women enter the workplace unprepared for the financial and social expectations that they are confronted with – balancing career goals and expectations with societal pressure to start a family. Young women often lack the confidence, resources and support to boldly enter corporate spaces and assert themselves.

In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg talks about the need for women to push forward in spite of all the obstacles pulling them back.

In celebrating Women’s Day and Women’s Month, it is important for us as young women to celebrate the achievements of those who have paved the way for our success and freedom.

In doing so, let us recognise the organisations and institutions that exist to bring women together across all races and industries.

Empowerment of all women is critical because “If you educate a girl child, you educate a nation”, if you empower women, you empower the world. Women have, and will always be the backbone of the nation’s development.

Since the early 1950s women united in purpose to save all women from the degradation of the pass system. These women came together, united in purpose to fight against the hindrances that bound them.

Similarly, women in South Africa must unite to support, inspire and build the young women in this country to overcome the violence and boldly assert themselves in biased spaces that seek to hold them back.

The Businesswomen’s Association’s student chapter seeks to empower and inspire them through older women telling their stories, mentoring younger women and creating a platform for the empowerment of all women.

Such institutions allow young women to connect with older, leading women who have pioneered a path for themselves and are able to pass down these lessons to younger women.

While this is one of the major institutions fostering and pioneering the development of women, there is a huge need for the creation of more of these platforms that will focus on young women from an earlier age and ensure that they are aware of their potential and have all the tools they need to achieve excellence in the presence of discrimination.

Makgato is president of the student chapter of the Businesswomen’s Association

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