Women can change the world by reclaiming and knowing their place

Londiwe Dlomo Journalist
Women can change the world by reclaiming and knowing their place.
Women can change the world by reclaiming and knowing their place.

The phrase "know your place " is one many people have heard in their lives. It is a phrase that has been used to cut down others and to take away agency from them. For a black woman, the phrase can be triggering. 

Sowetan’s newest campaign is about knowing one's place, and that is wherever you want it to be. This is a sentiment that was echoed by Lusanda Raphulu, a partner at law firm Bowmans in Sandton, Johannesburg.  

“I think for me, one of the things I really believe in is making the world better because I was in it. How did I make it better because I was in it and I try to take that everywhere, whether it is at work  or it's at home, or in myself as a mother," she said.

"To say, how did I make it better because I was there, how did I add? … and I think for me that is my place, because my place is the world. My place is not some small little corner there for a black girl. My place is the world.” 

Raphulu was in conversation with Sowetan’s editor Nwabisa Makunga as part of a panel of women speaking on how they changed the narrative in their lives. The talk was hosted by the Sowetan Women's Club to give meaning to the publication's #KnowYourPlace campaign.

Other panelists were Ellen Fischat, the founder of Story Room, a boutique innovation consultancy, and Nozibele Mayaba, an HIV activist and self-published author.  

In the robust discussion, the women shared their trials and triumphs and also gave some advice to the audience.

Fischat spoke about women recognising the power of unity. She said that if women can come together to do the work at family functions, they certainly can do so when it comes to other aspects of life. This was in response to how young women can overcome being raised to be inferior.

“I think that change comes about when we, as women, start supporting each other, I think what men do very well is that they understand that power comes out of their unity… any woman over the age of 10 in South Africa, I think has been oppressed somehow.

"I think it starts with reaching out [to other women], it starts with the will to uplift each other. We do it so naturally, we cook together, we make Sunday lunch together… if we could use those moments… girls need to see girls that look like us, someone who sounds like them, who knows their struggle, the more we step forward [the more we become their role models]," she said. 

Representation is something important to Raphulu as well  and she said that to take it further, support should be given to women, so that they don’t fall off the work wagon, especially when a woman makes the decision to become a mother.

“For me, it’s having the support, having people who can back you and speak positively about you. It’s having the representation, but also having the support. The law can give you the access to be able to walk in through the door, but what will allow you to stay in the room and to thrive in the room?”

Fischat also spoke about how learning and being willing to learn is something that women can use to empower themselves.

“I’ve learnt that I can teach myself anything. Thank goodness for the University of YouTube, there is nothing on this earth that you cannot learn. So, for example, with outreach work that is supposed to support STEM initiatives, I will say, use your data to teach yourself something. Don’t use it to go on Instagram, use that data to teach yourself a skill. The beauty about technology is that it doesn’t have physical boundaries,” she said.  

For Mayaba, part of knowing one’s place also starts with difficult conversations, conversations that our parents feared or could not have with us.

“We need to talk, I’ve had the need to be very conscious in reminding myself of that because the dangers of coming from an environment that was that, is that you also  tend to repeat history. You tend to also shy away from conversation, from speaking your mind, because you come from an environment or upbringing that did not do that.”

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