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Ambition Is Not A Dirty Word

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No one said it would be easy!

As women of Africa we have had epic battles to fight, from freeing ourselves from the shackles of colonized and patriarchal mindsets, to being pigeon-holed by our multi-textured identities shaped by race, gender, class and cultures. But we have started to change that: initially we did this hesitantly, often unsure about our own strength, both physical and emotional, as well as our worth – and, more often than not, cowed by the often unquestioned power-based status quo in our societies and institutions, and the barriers that kept us out.

But now we are braver, wiser and more reliant on our own instincts and leadership traits; our emotional and spiritual intelligence; our formal and informal knowledge; our experiences and our relationships, and so we have begun to carve out the future we want for ourselves in bigger, bolder and more audacious steps. In general, African women have started to own their voices and make their mark in domains that were previously male-dominated. Why?

I like to posit that one of the primary reasons for this phenomenon is that women are no longer afraid of owning their ambition; we have finally learned that ambition is not a dirty word. Previously we would shy away from asking, negotiating, speaking up, recognizing our worth and claiming the recognition we so rightly deserve. From war-torn countries to boardrooms to our homes, we are no longer wearing the victim cap but have replaced it with our open ambition – not driven primarily for self-centered, egocentric reasons but because we are deeply passionate about creating better adjusted societies. Most of us are, after all, mothers or mothers in the making, and so instinctively nurturing – and which mother in which country does not want a better life for her child?

From women who are playing significant peace-keeping roles in their countries, to the survivalist female entrepreneurs operating as the third economy in hugely disparate nations, to women who have paved the way for more women in the boardrooms of corporate enterprises and government structures – all have claimed the right to their goals and aspirations.

Huge sacrifices have been made by women who came before us, particularly those who fearlessly stood up to oppressive regimes and allowed us to take our seats around the tables of power. You and I are without a doubt still making sacrifices and may obtain many scars for openly demonstrating such a determined sense of civil or commercial purpose. But instead of hiding our scars let’s wear them as badges of honor.

I have quite a few scars myself, but through my experiences I have learned that what does not kill or damage me is character-building and has given me  an inner strength and resilience I did not know I possessed. I was talking to a South African male leader recently and he said something very interesting; the gist of it went like this: “I was never an insider and being the outsider from a young age made me fight for it, and work harder and smarter – and made me infinitely more hungry.”

I think this can be argued as a case for women who have never been the insiders in a male-dominated society and business environment. In addition to being the outsiders we also possess traits that men simply don’t have. According to an extensive study conducted in 2013 by John Gerzema, named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Behaviour 2014 by Trust Across America, and Michael D’Antonio, women are intuitively more expressive in their leadership style, they use flexibility as a way of getting things done, and they see winning as a group construct. These are primarily female leadership traits, the study concluded, and are what we want in our leaders today – that is, leaders who have the capacity to relate to ordinary people and their points of view.

Simply put, we are the leaders we have been waiting for. Our nation, our society and our corporate enterprises need leaders like us; and the young women and men in our societies need role models like us. Gerzema and D’Antonio articulate it beautifully in the title of their 2013 New York Times bestseller, The Athena Doctrine: how women (and the men who think like them) will rule the future.

That future is now. Women need to be proud of their ambition and, in realizing it, must be prepared to stave off whatever slings and arrows the insiders may throw at us.

 

The writer is the Executive Director of the Centre for Leadership and Dialogue at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) in Johannesburg,

South Africa.

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Woman

Forbes Woman Africa Announces First Regional Forum In Rwanda

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FORBES WOMAN AFRICA is excited to announce the inaugural FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Regional Forum in association with Mastercard, a Leading Women Summit initiative, to be held in Kigali, Rwanda, on 9 August 2019.

Coinciding with National Women’s Day in South Africa, the FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Regional Forum in association with Mastercard will bring together 250 powerful women from across East Africa and will follow in the footsteps of the bigger annual FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit, bringing a slice of this sought-after gathering to East Africa.

READ MORE | Naomi Campbell Announced As Headline Speaker For The 2019 Forbes Woman Africa Leading Women Summit

“The FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Regional Forum will echo the same fervor and sentiment as the flagship Leading Women Summit but in hosting it for the first time in East Africa, what I am very keen on is coming face-to-face with the women who are at the top of their game in this region – the guests and speakers on the day will be luminaries you don’t want to miss meeting,” says Renuka Methil, Managing Editor of FORBES AFRICA and FORBES WOMAN AFRICA.

As an initiative by the FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit, the full-day, not-to-be-missed event, which will debut in the East African nation, is to be hosted at the Kigali Serena Hotel and will feature some of the exciting content FORBES WOMAN AFRICA has consistently won awards for.

READ MORE | Naomi Campbell: Africa Is One Of The Leading Continents In The World

Beatrice Cornacchia, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Mastercard Middle East and Africa said: “African women are a force for economic growth and social change, and are playing a critical role in addressing the development challenges faced across the continent.

“As cultural and social dynamics shift, we are beginning to see an environment where women can flourish, and demonstrate the value they offer to every industry and sector in the economy. We are proud to partner with Forbes Africa and believe that this initiative will help to create opportunities for women to reach their greatest potential.”

The 2019 FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit on March 8 saw Supermodel, Philanthropist, Activist and Cultural Innovator Naomi Campbell headline the Durban event, alongside some of the most notable names in business, sports, politics and the arts.

Further details and speaker profiles will soon be revealed in the buildup to the event.

READ MORE | Naomi Campbell Has Big Plans For Africa

The FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Regional Forum in association with Mastercard will be a by-invitation-only gathering and further information can be obtained by following @LWSummit on Twitter.

-The FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Regional Forum in association with Mastercard will be managed and produced by ABN Event Productions.

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Health

Tasty Vegan Options: Consumed By Healthy Eating

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The restaurant market still hungers for healthy options. This entrepreneur is feeding that need, serving earth-conscious customers and gym junkies.  

Her desperation for a healthy meal fueled the fire for business.

Leigh Klapthor, 31, couldn’t find enough eateries that sold healthy food that was not bland, so decided to start her own.

“It is no fun to go out with friends and you are always the girl with the green salad,” she says.

“I wanted to find a way where being healthy is not such a chore and I also wanted for it to be affordable.”

Klapthor, who dropped out of a course in marketing communications at the University of Johannesburg, ditched a job in corporate marketing to pursue her passion for food.

A patron at Sprout Café. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

In 2017, she started Sprout Café at the Stoneridge Centre in Edenvale in Johannesburg with a loan she received from her husband’s business and money that was given to them as a wedding gift.

“Everybody underestimates what everything will end up costing [when starting a new business]. In my mind, I thought R150,000 ($10,588) would work. I thought I would get my shop fitting and everything done and in the first month we would be able to pay salaries with the money we make,” says Klapthor.

But she soon realized the unforeseen challenges faced by many entrepreneurs. She had to eventually pump in a capital of R350,000 ($24,706) to start the venture.

“So I had a couple of life lessons at the beginning. I had to end up using our savings but I didn’t mind having to do that because I trusted and believed in the vision.” 

But though she did, the banks did not because they often declined all her loan applications.

 “I think there are so many young black and enthusiastic individuals that have brilliant ideas and vision but the investment capital is not there. Though I do not have the capital as well to assist them, I would say keep going because the vision is greater,” Klapthor says.

Sprout Café offers health food, light meals, vegan food, and vegetarian and ketogenic diet food.

With her corporate marketing skills, she advertised her food on social media and gained a lot of traction.

“I want to create food on Instagram and people are like, ‘oh my God, I want to eat that’ and when they come into the store, it is the same deliverable they receive,” she says.

Sprout Café turns over R3 million ($211,677) annually and has 10 employees. 

After only two years of business, she has recently opened a second branch in the heart of the busy Moove Motion Fitness Club in Sunninghill in Johannesburg.

“There are people that are on specific diets and there is no one that is giving these people food. There is no one that is saying, vegan people want to be healthy too. They are making a conscious decision to preserve the environment and preserve their health and they are making these decisions but there is no one that is there to accommodate them.”

Klapthor says that the world is moving towards a plant-based lifestyle and she believes that many have recently caught on to that idea recently. 

Trend translator Bronwyn Williams of Flux Trends,  reiterates Klapthor’s views on how the world is adopting healthier habits. She believes that Generation Z is choosing good, clean fun the most.

“Yes, South Africa is not exempt from the global movement towards more locally-sourced and earth-friendly products and packaging,” Williams says.

However, Williams believes that because 64.2% of the South African population still lives in poverty, clean and organic food still remains costly for the majority of people.

“That said, unfortunately, earth-friendly consumer options remain a luxury that only the upper middle class can really afford to support and enjoy… certified organic, eco-friendly products tend to cost far more—up to 40% more than ‘regular’ packaged produce, it would be disingenuous to say that what the market wants is locally-sourced, earth-first produce when the majority of South Africans are struggling just to put any food on the table,” Williams says.

‘Every day, you should be able to eat a Sprout meal without having to feel any kind of guilt and shame,’ Leigh Klapthor says. Picture: Gypseenia Lion

Though Klapthor knows more people are opening healthy-eating establishments because they see that it is a trend, she believes that they need to be in touch with the reality of an ordinary person’s life and consider the cost implications.

“You can’t charge someone R150 ($10.59) for a Beyond Meat burger and expect her to come back tomorrow for the same burger. People are tight with their money and they work hard for it, they do not want to let go, for instance, of R500 ($35.29) in three days,” Klapthor says.

“We want to provide a healthy lifestyle, something that is consistent and that people can live through, and not just a treat-themselves-to at the end of the month. Every day, you should be able to eat a Sprout meal without having to feel any kind of guilt and shame.”

Obviously, it is a concept that has worked and keeps her business healthy as well.

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Opinion

Enabling Healing For Rape Survivors

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On this day in 2008, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1820 declaring that rape and other forms of sexual violence could constitute “a war crime, a crime against humanity, or a constitutive act with respect to Genocide”. For countries such as Rwanda, which have experienced conflict and its devastating consequences, this was a major step forward.

The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi saw over 1,000,000 men, women and children slaughtered in a 100 days. Of those who survived, many endured torture and public humiliation, often in the form of rape and sexual assault.

Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were systematically raped, with the additional intent to infect them with HIV. The result was, approximately 67 percent diagnosed as HIV+, and an estimated 20,000 children born of these mass rapes.

READ MORE | Rwanda’s Gorillas Have Figured Out Where To Find Their Sodium Fix. But It’s Dangerous

Twenty-five years later Rwandans have worked hard to pick up the pieces, and continue efforts to build a country its citizens can be proud of. A healthy foundation is now in place, upon which future generations will stand, to shape an increasingly secure, peaceful and prosperous nation. Slowly but surely, Rwanda is healing.  

For survivors of rape, who in many ways carry a double burden, the journey of healing is more complex, filled with pain that most struggle to keep buried and forgotten.

Beyond the physical damage they suffered, these women and girls – and in some cases, men and boys – continue to suffer from severe mental wounds that stripped them of their dignity, leaving them feeling like lesser human beings.

For true healing to occur, we must create and promote a conducive environment where survivors can live dignified lives, unbound by crippling thoughts and the helplessness brought about by their ordeals.

Efforts must be pooled from the highest levels of leadership to the grassroots, to establish safe spaces that allow each victim and survivor of rape to heal, reconnect and reintegrate with the right support and at their own pace.

Even more so, as survivors have to live next to perpetrators, as many of them remained in their original communities; while the most notorious, will soon be returning to their homes, after serving their sentence.

In my experience working with survivors of rape in Rwanda, I have seen first-hand the miracles that can occur when survivors’ individual healing journeys are not brushed away, forced or ridiculed, but simply enabled.

One particular story stands out in my mind, is that of Suzanne, a woman I met through my work with ABASA, an association of genocide and rape survivors.

READ MORE | Young women in Soweto, South Africa, say healthy living is hard. Here’s why

During the Genocide against the Tutsi, Suzanne, who was 58 years of age, was raped for several days by militia, some of whom were her neighbours. Suzanne suffered severe injuries, both physical and mental. When I first met her, she had no control of her bodily functions, let alone her life.  She had been in and out of hospitals, with no lasting solution to her medical problems.

My organisation, Imbuto Foundation, supports the women of ABASA by facilitating their access to HIV treatment and providing psychosocial and financial support. We ensured that Suzanne received quality treatment and surgery at a reputable hospital, and stayed close to her throughout her recovery. As result, she is now a strong and healthy citizen, whose experience of the Genocide is no longer a physical mark, left for all to see.

Every individual story like Suzanne’s, and that of thousands of Rwandan women raped publicly, and taken to what was known as ‘Maison des Femmes’ only to be abused by countless men, underline the vital importance of recognising rape in conflicts as a weapon of destruction.

More than that, it is a call to the international community to:

  • take bold steps by bringing to justice those who are still on the run;
  • mobilise solidarity, responsibility and resources to enable the healing and reintegration of rape victims.

For Rwanda, especially during this Kwibuka (Genocide Commemoration), a quarter of a century later, it is a call to acknowledge survivors of rape as true heroines and heroes of our history, and to strip rape of its cruel power.

For all of us, men and women, it is a call to become part of the solution.

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This is an opinion piece by First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame, looking at the importance of enabling healing for rape victims and survivors, in line with the anniversary (19 June 2019) of UN Security Council Resolution 1820, recognising rape as a war crime.

First Lady of the Republic of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame. Picture: Supplied

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