There is a local saying in isiZulu “Uma ufundisa owesifazane, unfundisa umpakathi.” Loosely translated, it means: “When you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”
Despite all the advancement in human rights and gender equality, women in our society are still regarded as “sub-humans” who are to be looked after by someone – dad, brother or husband. The sad thing about this is that not only does society expect this to be fine, but some women themselves believe it should be so.
But instead of being looked after, they more and more find themselves abandoned or abused, either because of things (past and present), like the migrant labour system, group areas, people in exile, men killed in wars, or family dysfunction. These situations can either make or break a woman.
I believe that it is in times like these when they have to choose between rising above the situation or breaking down. If a woman, as a pillar of every household, chooses to break down, the entire family falls or breaks down.
If she decides to stand firm and grow to control her livelihood, the whole family stands firm and grows to control its livelihood. Standing firm and taking control usually comes after a lot of crying, sighing, arguing, debating, contemplating, praying and finally, deciding.
Most women who have been through these situations portray a lot of success stories. These are not just material successes but spiritual ones as well-emotional liberation, freedom of thought, action and choice. This liberation brings about healing of the pain of self-pity, and the attitude of “victim” is transformed into that of “victor”.
When a woman decides and chooses to protect, nurture and provide for her family, nothing can stand in the way of that woman. These women start by challenging what is life-denying towards themselves and their families (both in culture and religion). They then move on to liberating and empowering themselves, which in turn liberates and empowers their families. While watching the story “Runaway Father” on TV some time ago, I could not help but observe the incredible power that women have within themselves.
The minute they decide to do something about their lives, the power within them takes charge.
The woman in this true story accepts welfare support during her crisis, contemplates what she is going to do; and decides to go back to college, even though the welfare system doesn’t allow that she graduates, obtains a good job, gets off welfare and provides for her family. She then begins to seek the ‘runaway’ father. When she finds him, she takes him to court and wins the maintenance charge against him, and is transformed from victim to victor.
I believe it is imperative that women take control of their livelihoods, use their God-given power, intelligence and wisdom within themselves – not only to benefit themselves and their families, but the whole of humanity.
Women can do it, believe it!