Let’s be deliberate about amplifying young women’s voices

Women should have a voice every month, not just Women’s Month. Picture: iStock
Women should have a voice every month, not just Women’s Month. Picture: iStock

“Society sees women as child bearers who should be submissive and know her place is in the kitchen. That women are weak and do not have a voice and that they cannot lead,” is Philadelphia Sanzinza’s response when asked how she thinks society perceives her as a woman.

Sanzinza is a young woman and Activator, a member of the Activate! change drivers network, from the Northern Cape

Young girls often learn to talk quite early. This curious chatter, unsolicited and carefree, betrays a beautiful part of the essence of what many women will become when they are older. Somewhere along the line, a mixture of circumstance and socialisation slowly silences this innate trait of being a woman. What is it about the way that we rear young woman that makes it easy for them to feel silenced or not heard?

Over the time, through journeys that take many young South African women through various journeys, we know that young women do find their voices and are not afraid to make themselves heard. How do we know this? The Activate! change drivers network is a great example of this.

Young women across South Africa driving change not just for themselves but for their communities as well. Mpho Tshabalala from North West says “the role of women in developing the country is nourishing each and every opportunity we get. By developing and making a difference in the social and economic sectors of the country. I’m fulfilling my role by making a difference in our community through running skills development workshops for young women; lifting others as I rise.”

How is it still possible that when young women are asked about the significance of Women’s Month, many lament the fact that it’s only during this month women are recognised for their efforts and are given a priority share of voice?

Why is this not the norm? Why are we forcing young women to be martyrs? Why are we forcing young women to still fight against gender equality in a democratic South Africa?

What then is the significance of a progressive Constitution or participation in a global economy when the most basic things such as recognition of women are still such drastic failures?

In a country with rising statistics of rape and other forms of gender-based violence, young women must take comfort in knowing that they are seen, supported and protected.

We must be deliberate about the representation of young women across all spheres of life. As Activate!, we have chosen to deliberately harness and amplify young women leaders because we know voice is power.

“Society needs to give us a chance and recognise we are not these fragile beings who need constant looking after,” says Zimkhitha Madonci from the Eastern Cape.

An instabition (photo exhibition on Instagram via Activate! Change Drivers) during Women’s Month is a display of resilience and true ingenious of how young women across all sectors of South African continue driving change, taking others with them and igniting possibilities and a remind to constantly #ActivateHerStory.

“Women’s Month to me is a reminder of the pivotal role that played in shaping our country and a sneak peek of the good that can happen when women are granted a chance to lean in and sit at the table. As a young woman living in a very patriarchal society, this month is important to me; not only to be reminded that I too [as a woman] can and are actually lead,” says Kgadi Mmanakana from Limpopo.

Ngqulana is the communications manager at Activate! change drivers and a fellow at the

Journalism and Media Lab Accelerator programme run by Wits Journalism. Follow her on Twitter @neli_ngqulana

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