South Africa: Women in Dialogue, Women in Action

South Africa: Women in Dialogue, Women in Action

Date: July 10, 2018
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By Yolanda Dyantyi

Pretoria, 6 July: Gender Links in collaboration with South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID) and UNISA Women’s Forum held a seminar “Women in Dialogue, Women in Action” under the theme “Towards a new phase of the South African young women’s movement”

The conversation which was facilitated by multi-talented media personality, feminist, and business woman, Kgomotso Matsunyane, was held in the Dr Mirriam Makeba Hall at UNISA’s Muckleneuk campus where over 40 particpants gathered.  The event opened with a welcoming note by the Dean of Students, Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, who emphasised how important it is for young people to get involved in political advocacy more so as we head towards the elections in 2019.

Yolanda Dyantyi an intern from Gender Links set the context and objectives the seminar wished to achieve. Dyantyi noted that  that the seminar aimed to serve as a platform for young women to lead a frank discussion on  socio-political issues. The collaborative event aimed to be practical through sharing strategies for engagement for the young women’s agenda which comes through creating spaces for networking, sharing and learning from one another and developing a community of practice around our own issues.

Matsunyane opened up the discussion by sharing her story on how she has suffered depression. She further stated that many people suffer from mental health issues but are afraid to admit it, or even speak up about it as [black] society has not created enough safe spaces for [black] people to speak about their mental health yet alone wanting to acknowledge the illnesses associated, emphasizing a lack of awareness around this social issue in South Africa.

Stereotypes in society go as far as claiming that mental health related issues is something white people suffer from and is seen as a ‘white man’s disease’ completely erasing the socio-political and economic circumstances that black people have undergone, and continue to go through in our country, post-democracy, where the interests of state citizens seem to be perpetually ignored.

Matsunyane further stated that the term ‘black tax’ holds a problematic notion as it implies that there is a special category of tax designated for black people. This statement is not far from the truth as the conversation unravelled unpacking what black tax means and its implications on black people, specifically on young black women’s lives, was discussed.

Vanessa Mokobedi, UNISA’s SRC Speaker of Parliament, highlighted the effects apartheid had on her parents, and seemingly most of our parents as the youth of 2018, and how the system intentionally segregated them from being equal participants and contributors to the economy. Thus, the effects of being in debt including having to go to school through the support of financial aid (student loans) knowing that after graduation one has to repay that debt with interest, whilst trying to carve and sustain a lifestyle free from poverty is hard.

This is also coupled with the onus of having to look after our parents and siblings as many do not have pension funds or jobs that allow them to live a debt free life, which weighs immensely on the youth as expectations are tied to our traditional factors of having to be bread winners for our family members once we start earning a salary. Matsunyane testified to this sentiment as she was one of the first successful people in her family, having gone through a tertiary education and securing a stable well-paying job, she found herself being responsible for her relatives who were not in a similar position as she.

Matsunyane spoke about the importance of learning to say ‘no’ to family members who depend on you as a source of living. She said that as hard as it is, there has to come a time where we have to put ourselves first because the weight of manoeuvring in a society that has historically been anti-black and anti-women plus juggling the implications of capitalism are a huge burden on anyone, psychologically, physically and emotionally.

Click here to watch the recorded seminar on the Gender Links Facebook page, and hear what the panellists  had to say about this topic.

Yolanda Dyantyi is an intern at Gender Links. This article is part of the GL News and Blogs Service.

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