OPINION | For many women reclaiming their authenticity is a revolutionary act

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Illustration photo by Getty Images
Illustration photo by Getty Images

As a woman, you either love or hate the month of August. It's the month when women are inundated with requests to attend events, asked to share their experiences, struggles, triumphs, and are reminded of how much more they can (read: should) achieve, despite the challenges they endure.

What does it mean to be a woman? This is a personal question because it means so many different things to different women. Some of us were stripped of our right to be soft and feminine because we had to toughen up early on in our lives, put on armour and be ready to fight or flee as young girls.

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This type of hardening at a young age can alter a girl’s worldview and shift her perspective of life so dramatically that she loses touch with the very root of her femininity. Some of us are so hardened and beaten up by our childhood experiences that we reject ourselves and the notion of womanhood and femininity entirely.

Being women and being feminine is sometimes the very reason that gets us into trouble in the first place. So, we reject our voluptuous bodies as they attract unwanted stares and attention. We reject our softness because it is used to manipulate us. We reject our weaknesses because they are used as weapons to harm us. We are not given space to embrace womanhood in all its rightful fullness.

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Trusting and harnessing their authenticity allows women to operate from a place of true power. This is the perspective of Yandiswa Xhakaza, the CEO of the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign. Photo supplied by Nal’ibali

Being born in a society that does not nurture and care for its people – and, in this case, its little girls – leads to displaced women who do not know who they are and who have lost their source of power and strength. To be a woman is to reclaim all that you are intended to be. It is a revolutionary act to find your way back to yourself. It is from there that you can thrive and conquer the world.

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If we look to nature and observe female and male animals of the same species, we will find that they have distinct characteristics. Their responsibilities are aligned to their physical features.

Think of a lion and a lioness.

The lioness’s primary responsibility is to hunt. Yes, believe it! With their sleek, long, flexible bodies, they are ideal hunters when compared to male lions. His role is to protect the pride and its territory. When under attack, the male lion will rise to the occasion to defend his clan. And that is why he has a mane. Its key function is to act as a protective shield during fights.

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As humans, we have a remarkable ability to adapt and survive, to find a way through horrors such as abuse in the home or simply poor parenting. But this fight for life has left so many women cut off from their innate feminine power and ability to thrive. We need to do better for upcoming generations of women who (not through their own doing) have overridden their femininity, believing they need to harness only the masculine energy to succeed.

This Women’s Month, I would like to see more real talk that goes below the surface and addresses fundamental questions that will help us move forward in profound ways. It is my wish that each woman will have the courage to journey back to herself. Happy Women’s Month!

* Yandiswa Xhakaza is the CEO of the Nal’ibali reading-for-enjoyment campaign.

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