Wow! Day #3 in beautiful Cape Town began with fabulous yoga with Supreet K Singh, then inside tips on financial inclusion and social media, mentoring walks (or sits), a class photo for the books, a fascinating conversation with South African wine industry trailblazer Beverly Farmer…and ended with a dance workshop with Maria Vertkin!
Shirley, what was the most eye-opening thing from today’s peer presentation?
A: Shirley Otube, Kenya, SECURE Publications:
The most eye opening thing about today’s presentations was the strength of self-perception, branding and our ideas of wealth. Also realizing that most of the time when we talk about social change, we forget the financial part. On my part, I never really include the financial part as a point of empowerment for the youth. But now I realize how it plays an important role in how they see themselves and how they feel empowered enough to speak up. Because when someone feels like they don’t have enough money, then their strength and ability to speak up against some things also gets diminished. It was eye opening and made me question a lot – maybe I should integrate programs to include entrepreneurship skills, so people not only learn to speak but also feel that they have the tangible ability to stand up for themselves.
Supreet, can you talk about your peer-to-peer collaboration?
A: Supreet Singh, India, SafeCity:
Between me, Olwethu (Leshabane of the Red Wings Project) and Siphelele (Chirwa of Educo Africa), we are planning to bring SafeCity (campaigns to spread awareness about gender based crimes) to South Africa. We have structured our entry into South Africa by starting with two universities, one in Johannesburg and one in Cape Town. We will start by giving out bookmarks and brochures on SafeCity, promoting the law on sexual harassment in South Africa, then we’ll take it into the second phase of moving into the community. And simultaneously we’ll be talking about this on the media, which is Olwethu’s strength. She works a lot in the social media space and that’s why she’ll be talking about SafeCity and what we’re doing. We already tried to open an Instagram and Twitter for a South Africa chapter of SafeCity, where they start to promote issues and suggest solutions. There’s much more that will happen, but this is what we will start with immediately.
Gemma, how has your perspective on possibility changed over the past three days?
A: Gemma Bulos, United States, Global Women’s Water Initiative:
Michelle Obama recently said that women need to stop apologizing or being grateful for being at the table. If they’re not at the table, they need to pull out a folding chair and sit there. I feel like this is what these women are doing. They’re not trying to be invited to the table, they literally pulling out a chair to the table and saying “not only do I deserve to be here, but I have ideas on how we can fix things.” And these ladies have deconstructed ways in which they operate, ways in which they implement their programs, ways in which they totally changing the way people think about their sectors. They are literally the go-to people for the niche problems that they’re solving. And I think why women probably are much more innovative, because they’re the ones with the least resources, they tend to be more resourceful. They have to figure things out because nobody is going to tell them. So, I think what has been exciting to see is that these women have cracked the code. They found ways to get around things that have been obstacles in the past. We still have a long way to go, but being able to crack that code, like water – I always use water as my metaphor – they hit an obstacle, and then they find a better way.
Varsha, what was the most surprising thing that you found in the last three days?
A: Varsha Thebo, Pakistan, SARTY:
A lot. But the most surprising thing was there is so much of interconnectedness in all the ideas, in all the projects before even coming in. There was always the sense of loneliness in the kind of work I’m doing, mainly because of the location and the target population that I have. But coming here, the theme, experiences, motivation, everything is so connected with all of the projects that are happening, that I no longer feel alone. I feel like, finally, I’m not the only one. This sense of connectivity, belonging to this group of women who come from different parts of the world and doing all these incredible things: it’s surprising yet wonderful.
Olwethu, what are your final thoughts on what we’ve been doing in the past three days and what has been the most inspiring moments that come out of this?
A: Olwethu Leshabane, South Africa, The Red Wings Project:
We go to so many seminars as women, so many leadership conferences, and the element of empowerment for me is education and getting me to step out and know something and get to learn something that I don’t know. You don’t know what you don’t know until somebody teaches you. And that’s exactly what I got from this conference. I’m loving the learning, enjoying stepping out of who I am and experiencing being in somebody else’s shoes, learning how to take something and how contextualize it for me and being able to apply a lot of the learning. And you get to learn that women are so similar, but in so many different contexts around the world. I’ve been overwhelmed and so grateful with the opportunity to learn something that no MBA class in the world can teach me, no university in the world in three years undergrad or postgraduate can teach me.