Mpolokeng Mudau (University of Western Cape), Okisai Amoit (University of Nairobi), Meryam El Oultezri (University Mohammed V of Rabat) and Shingai Mushayabasa (University of Birmingham)
When we are young, we are told to dream big. Like a butterfly, we emerge until we start to spread our wings. No one tells you that those wings will be clipped by a system that actually restricts you from flying. No one tells you that, in Morocco and South Africa, your worth will be valued only when you are married. No one tells you that in Kenya your worth is in your ability to bear children. You are told your worth is determined by how hard you work, given that you are 1st and 2nd generation immigrants in England. While we have challenges that intersect, our lives are intersected by those experiences. Women came together breaking the boundaries. As their voices begin to sound, their wings start to unclip and sanity prevails.
A quote derived from an islamic proverb “A lot of different flowers make a bouquet…each and every time a flower is mishandled and hurt, the beauty of the bouquet diminishes” Just as every time a person is mishandled or treated differently, the beauty of diversity is diminished and destroyed.Fatima
As It flew to South Africa it was reminded “wa thinta abafazi wa thinta imbokodo” (you strike a woman, you strike a rock). I don’t believe this phrase was put out there to test if women can not break because if it was Ncobile would have never wondered if all her struggles were worth her crumbling confidence and her emotional well-being. Tired of the many times it was insinuated she knew something about the hospitals missing stock because she was the only one who didn’t look like them. Or how her male colleagues would pass comments about her figure. Yes, women are strong but how much can they endure, I wonder as I recall Fatima walking through the doors and judgement meeting her, realising it is due to her scarf and possibly the reason she did not get the job. Witnessing the unjust and imbalances of women not being well compensated because of their dark skin. Colour, that has disadvantaged many. Fhulufhelo Comprehends now what some of the disadvantages meant, missing out on opportunities because she did not have the means to participate. Or maybe she never had the opportunity in the first place.
With the opportunity to fly to Morocco, she heard from Abir and Layla how it is hard to see the childhood dreams melt away in front of one’s eyes. How what was supposed to bring joy and freedom failed in the parental home, facing gender discrimination and groomed to be housewives. Despite overcoming hardships, Rayhane and Fatima did not escape exploitation in their first job, as beginners they had to work from the ground up, accepting the enormous work loads with only being remunerated by what can only cover transportation. Labeled “beginners” to justify the level of disrespect and contemn. Truly “life is not fair”, uttered by Hind and Hanane after facing the haughty look from their customers, despite the quality of services offered. Enduring due to their economic situation as if they needed another wound added to their already tired spirits. Much has been lost due to social categorisation, the world sees in black and white- the grey is reserved to colour the broken pieces of their childhood dreams existing only in their memories.
As the journey continues in England, one can’t help but admire the oxymoron it presents- the state of belonging and not belonging. The land where many have had to reshape their concept of identity and culture to fit in. The land of milk and honey where dreams come true but at what price Nana wonders as she recounts her first generation parents reminding her to be grateful for every fortuity. Fortuity to be taken advantage of. Take it on the chin and wear your big girl pants because your problem is not that you are the only female director Rudo but its because you need to learn corporate etiquette. Work twice as hard to prove you deserve the seat at the table- I guess all those years of studying was not enough. Damned should you raise any of this, hence Sinead decided to air them in a therapy session. Her employer can freely advocate for human rights and social justice but turn a blind eye on those whose hard work they ride on.
Njeri, a student, business lady and married in Kenya speaks about her undergraduate studies where she chose a course that was firmly believed to be for “men ”only. This was a challenging endeavor. In employment, she felt that she missed meaningful promotions as they were based on ethnicity and personal relationships with seniors. Speaking about it, the pressure was high and she had to step down. She thought of going back for higher education but her husband wasn’t convinced that she would manage school, self-business and family consecutively thus she should concentrate on raising her family. True to the perception held widely by the majority that women can multitask, Njeri was able to juggle around the three at the same time, except the ego of the husband who could not face that the woman was more qualified.
A lecturer and a PhD student narrates a painful story of her life. Speaking about the difficulty of juggling between family and studies for women in Africa. Nakhumicha’s dream of becoming a professor left her abandoned by her family and her kids taken away from her. Undermined by the juniors and rarely taken seriously because women speak based on emotions. How unfortunate because the perpetrators were other fellow women.
VOICES UNHEARD AS WE UNCLIP OUR WINGS. If only we could see the invisible marks left on our emotional and mental being they would tell a thousand tales that our faces have been taught to cover with our smiles and strength.
About the authors
Mpolokeng Mudau is a Bachelor’s student in Psychology at the University of Western Cape, South Africa. A resilient African woman who is passionate about leadership coaching and facilitating life skills development programs. I love my work because it allows me to help you become your greatest self. Where together we take a journey to a fruitful lifestyle – personal growth and self-worth. Life is not an event but rather a journey that begins with self. We are all co-creators, with the ability to manifest what we are designed for. When we are in alignment with what we want for ourselves, development and growth can happen. I believe we owe it to ourselves to live our best lives hence my commitment to the community work I do with informal settlements in South Africa, early childhood development work I do and also making strides in the psychology space.
Okisai Amoit is a passionate community organizer with a background in Psychology from the University of Nairobi, she is currently pursuing a Master’s in Development Studies. She is the founder of Citizen Research for Action, a community-based organization in Kenya that works towards promoting sustainable livelihoods among the youth via climate-smart agriculture as well as empowering young people to seek leadership positions in their surroundings. Recently, she’s developed a keen interest in the field of research. With her unique blend of academic and professional expertise, Okisai is dedicated to making positive changes in her community and beyond.
Meryam El Oultezri is a PhD student in Sociology at the University Mohammed V of Rabat, Morocco. She is a social worker with expertise in child protection, and a passion for humanities. In 2014, she converted my field of study to social science to further my knowledge in this area. Having studied experimental sciences in high school and Economics and Management for my Bachelor’s degree, her Master’s degree in Socio-Geography was the passage for understanding the complexity of human beings and the importance of studying human behaviour and understanding their phenomena. Her doctoral research in Sociology with a speciality on Migration studies at Mohamed V University in the Institute of African, Euro-Mediterranean and American Hebrew Studies in Rabat-Morocco renews her will to dedicate herself once again to social studies. She has combined her professional path with my studies and has been working in the social field in Morocco in a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) as a project manager to advocate and guarantee the rights of every child in Morocco.
Shingai Mushayabasa is a community organiser and facilitator; she has organised at Amnesty International, The UK Labour Party, Active Horizons, Friends of the Earth and the National Union of Students. Shingai is interested in exploring ways institutions can embed intersectional approaches that enable people to be their authentic selves and feel a sense of belonging. She is a Senior Community Organiser at Amnesty International UK and holds an LLB from the University of Westminster, an LLM in Human Rights, Conflict and Justice from the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London and is currently undertaking a Master in Public Administration with a focus on Human Resources at the University of Birmingham, UK.