Monday, June 12, 2006


The World Of Work 2006 Team

I’d like to continue from Mpho’s comments about women in the workplace. A good place to start is to shout out that our own Zanele Mdoda (intern 2006) organised "Take a girl to work" at De Beers!

There doesn’t seem to be a call for us to run into burning buildings or march as South African women did in 1956 when they protested against the proposed amendments to the Urban Areas Act which required women to carry pass- books. South Africa has much to be proud of in the emancipation of women from the paternalistic mindset of apartheid. Most of the assumptions of chauvinism are at least adequately discredited to ensure they get little public exposure.

Girls are growing up with national role models who attest to their freedom to dream of success - as an academic, like Mamphela Ramphele; as a scientist, like Wits University mathematician Mamokgethi Setati; as a pilot, like Asnath Mahapa, or Transnet Group CEO Maria Ramos who has shattered glass ceilings in some sectors of South African business.

But the news is not all good.

As you point out Mpho, women bear the brunt of the Aids pandemic, it is women who routinely pick up the pieces of shattered relationships and bravely raise their children with little or no help from men who refuse to take responsibility for their offspring.

In the words of one woman activist: 'We are more than half the world's population, and we are the mothers of the other half.' As mothers and carers, as producers and farmers, the work of women supports their families and communities. Yet, throughout Africa and indeed the world, the poorest people in the community are predominantly women and their dependent children. Women, on the whole, often work for no pay at all and, if they are paid, they usually earn far less than men. Two-thirds of the illiterate people in the world are women and in Africa they are more than 50%. Women face increasing levels of violence, because of their gender, and half a million women world-wide die each year as a direct or indirect result of pregnancy.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that a pregnant woman with a child on her back and a twenty litre container of water on her head is certainly not weak, but I don’t think we African women have done enough since August 9, 1956 when some 20 000 women joined in the march for their rights, singing "You have struck the women, you have struck a rock." I don’t think we as African women have said anything with such passion since that time.

I think a good place to start, would be to start small. The list for the 100 Best South Africans has apparently been scrapped. I think that’s a good thing. I think we are intimidated by big names, words and deeds. So much so that we don’t appreciate how important it is to do small things and thereby contribute. Greeting people on the street, not buying stolen goods, recycling waste, not drawing the curtains when you hear signs of abuse next door, or simply giving the guy with the cardboard at the robot a smile, is as important as launching a programme to eradicate poverty. Another good place to start would be to value work that women do beyond and outside of the commercial arena.

I ask three questions of myself every night before I go to sleep, and I take it as my pleasure to answer the questions in the positive.

1. What did I learn today?
2. What did I contribute today?
3. What did I enjoy today?

I think this regime of questions is one way of taking up Lesley's challenge of doing the small things and celebrating them. Cos the small things accumulate sometimes and make big things.

Blue skies
Thanks for the comment, Roy.

Still on the subject of women (if the sex-workers you are currently working with are all women): I read about your interactive role-playing workshops and your industrial theatre company. Sounds amazing and I wish it the greatest success. I’m going to lift your message about it out of and email some interns from previous years who may be interested.

Even though you are writing about this initiative at your (many) other blogs, would be great to have accounts of its development at the WoW Team blog, too. Mille Bojer always comes to speak to WoW participants during our programme about the work of Pioneers of Change. But she’s not hear right now in this blog, and it would be great to hear about how you try for balance between working (for money) and contributing, and working (for yourself and others), and contributing.

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