Networking their way to freedom
Doek on Fleek, which was started in 2016 by Nomthandazo Thandi Mavata is more than just a trending hash tag on social media. Mavata says her childhood dream of making female empowerment a reality is finally bearing fruit.
The 36-year-old accountant, who fondly calls herself 'uBabesWeDoek', says the very first Doek on Fleek event was meant to be a once-off. "Doek on Fleek was just a Mother's Day special theme, where I hosted hundreds of ladies in 2016. It was themed 'doek it like your mother taught you'.
"After seeing the beauty and interest for the event I decided to look into having it monthly. It's then when it became a passion project for me. I had always been a strong advocate for empowerment . It saddens me that in our society there's a notion that women do not want other women to succeed, and I felt compelled to dispel that by proving that women could indeed stand together and support one another."
Mavata's initial focus was to provide women from all walks of life with a platform where they could sell products as a means to provide themselves with financial liberation. And, if you have never been privileged to swaai a doek, lessons are on offer at these events.
She says it's the lessons we learnt from our mothers before us that we pass down to generations born to us.
She has successfully hosted more than 30 events.
Mavata who comes from a background of strong women in Kwazakhele township in Port Elizabeth says her grandmother was her motivation to be financially savvy. "She sold sweets and soon she was buying and selling cloth. She was known in the community and up to three years ago, before her death, she was somewhat of a money lender in the location.
"I admired that she never had to work for anyone to make ends meet."
Doek on Fleek has "now become a powerful movement. In my quest to empower women I have found that there are many women that share my sentiments."
It has since grown to have more than 800 women per event and has spread to provinces around SA.
"I have also started to partner up with ladies who wish to host a Doek On Fleek events in their areas, where I come in and assist with capital and human resources and in this way they are guaranteed to have additional income without risking their own funds."
As to why she went with the doek theme: "The head wrap or doek as we call it holds significant meaning in African culture, even in ancient Egyptian times regal head wraps would signify royalty. Here when a woman has her hair in a doek it is a way to show respect to those around her.
"So for me, Doek on Fleek was a way to say to women, let us stand together - all races and tribes - and wear our crowns [doeks] proudly while still showing one another respect. We went with doeks as opposed to African attire because we wanted something that could be inclusive of all women, not only African women."
Her goal is to unite the women of SA regardless of age, race or creed. But she doesn't compromise on men who are barred from these gatherings.
Doek on Fleek gels with the arts
Carmen Mockie and Wendy Derison are two women inspired by the Thandi Mavata brand.
In support of Women's Month and empowerment of the female species, Mockie, 36, and Derison, 25, put on a grand show of their version of Doek on Fleek. "The idea was sparked by fellow partner Wendy and all of us agreed immediately," says Mockie.
"We wanted to contribute in support of Women's Month. Our business is centred around developing and promoting a culture which promotes responsible citizenship through the performing arts and various lifestyle events in the city and ultimately the province."
Mockie says they chose the Doek on Fleek theme to create social consciousness.
"As entrepreneurs, our objective is not only to excel in business but to also look at how we can use social trends [like the doek] to create social consciousness.
"The doek concept is not only a fashion statement but is an accessory that one can add to whatever fashion sense you have. It appeals to both the liberal and the slightly conservative. This was ideal for us because the doek was simply a tool we used to engage with women."
They took their event to the Moods and Flavours venue - a live music and bistro venue on August 8.
"We run the business as family (with two male relatives). We are four and hail from Heidedal in Bloemfontein," she says.
They hope their women empowerment programme will encourage women to attend their weekly sessions and enjoy cocktail ladies nights on Thursdays, RnB Fridays and live music on Saturdays.