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Living our grandmothers’ wildest dreams
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Living our grandmothers’ wildest dreams

Times have changed in her country, writes Tshwanelo Fokazi, a 26-year-old Commonwealth Correspondent from Ekurhuleni, South Africa. As the
world recognises the critical role women play in society this International Women’s Day; she reflects on what it was like being a woman in South Africa 50 years ago, and celebrates how far women have come.

Barbara Ndlovu, my late grandmother, at the age of 27 had seven children, a husband, no career aspirations and countless oppressive laws to adhere to as she tried to stay alive. She was a racially disadvantaged woman in South Africa.

Sixty years later, I, her granddaughter, have no children at age 27. I don’t feel inadequate for being unmarried, and I run my own private company. I have a full-time job with one of the world’s most prestigious brands, I have also achieved recognition at a national level and I have no plans to slow down. The world is my oyster! Political freedom tastes good and there has never been a better time than now to be a woman in South Africa.

If I handed you my resume, you could assume that I am lucky to have achieved so much but that’s the thing–it’s not about me! I represent an entire generation. We are the “born free” generation; those born after the apartheid was abolished. When you take time to scroll through social media–every single day, we see hundreds of posts of South African young women in graduation gowns.

It has become the norm in South Africa to see young queens thriving in careers such as engineering and exploring fields such as astronomical science. These young ladies are also leading boards in male-dominated industries; running successful commercial farms and being the visionaries behind groundbreaking projects of national interest.

Last century, if you sat the average young woman down and asked her what her biggest dream was, perhaps she would’ve said she dreams of ensuring her husband and children are well taken care of.

If you asked her to dream bigger, she would’ve likely said she dreams of being able to manage her household more efficiently. And bigger: maybe by now she would’ve said she dreams of running a small sewing business. If you asked her to forget the political or cultural limits; then maybe she would have dreamed of having a career like her husband’s, securing her income and getting an education in any field of her interest. That would have been her wildest dream

What was out of the extraordinary for her, is slowly becoming a norm for us the born free” generation.

In 1956, when freedom-fighter Lilian Ngoyi said, “we are women, we are workers, we stand together” – her words were foretelling a time such as this! As we conquer marginalization, shattering the glass ceiling and refusing to provide sexual favours to make our way to the top. We are taking the baton from women such as Victoria Mxenge who was seen as a great threat to the apartheid system.

Women such as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were steadfast in their commitment to our country’s liberation and the advancement of women’s rights. These women; especially Lillian Ngoyi (African) and Helen Joseph (Caucasian)led a racially diverse 20,000 women’s protest against the system in 1956 when racial segregation (apartheid) was prevalent in South Africa.


This is why, after almost 50 years, it is a part of our South African culture to see newly employed women setting aside a portion of their salary to buy sanitary pads for children from schools in their community. South African young women host empowerment events because our grandmothers, who were barely empowered, set a standard for us.

The only way this country can move forward is if the women at least work together. So, this Women’s Day, in the spirit of South Africa – I would like to urge you not to do it all for yourself because there is strength in sisterhood. Let us live our grandmothers’ wildest dreams and conquer all the barriers set before our generation for the sake of those who are not yet born.

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Photo credit: Image by SME South Africa/ Women who inspire, (clockwise) Bonang Matheba, Basetsana “Bassie” Kumalo, Palesa Mokubung, Shaney Vijendranath and Lauren Dallas 

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About me: I am a custodian for women empowerment through my online platform, Smart ZAR Girls. My passion for leadership has opened up opportunities for me: I am a One Day Leader alumni and a former BBC Africa debate key guest speaker, and a 2014 voluntary delegate for the Media Monitoring Africa initiative ‘‘Youth News Agency’’. My mantra is ‘‘we are more than that’’. This pushes me to constantly perceive and celebrate growth in myself, others and the rest of the continent. You can reach me on Twitter @TshwaneloFokazi

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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