Did you know that in 1974, South African women couldn’t apply for a loan or credit card without the approval of a male ‘guardian’? That was just 50 years ago! While we have come a long way since then, we still have a way to go before we see true female empowerment and independence throughout the country. And it starts with young girls with big dreams.
South African women have long been fighting for their rights, trying to bring about equality in a patriarchal world. In August, we celebrate Women’s Day, a day dedicated to the women that marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest legislation aimed at tightening the government's control over the movement of black women in urban areas. Those women stood their ground and today, over 60 years later, we're grateful for their bravery. Life for South African women has changed for the better, but would our past sisters be satisfied that it's changed enough?
We want young girls to look to the future without fear and see endless possibilities. They should not be discouraged or told that their dreams are too big for who they are or where they come from. Rather urge them to channel the fearlessness of previous generations so they can bring about change and fight for the future they deserve. But they'll need our help along the way.
Giving young women the tools they need to succeed
As a recruitment, training, and coaching company, Sivuka Youth was established to empower South Africa’s youth, particularly our young women. The company assists young people in overcoming adversity on their path to success and also runs virtual mentorship programmes, linking young jobseekers with a partner organisation. This approach has been very effective, and the company's initiatives and programmes have seen dozens of young people take the first steps on their employment journey.
While technical skills are essential to succeeding in the working world, Sivuka strives to address other aspects of Work Readiness through Self-Mastery-based training, coaching, and recruitment practices. Often, more personal skills are required to succeed in the working world, especially for the young woman. Sivuka helps equip girls with the tools they need to navigate various situations, whether it's having to hold your own in a boardroom or ask for a promotion when it's deserved. The company hopes to show young girls and women how to stand up for themselves and make the most of their authentic voices. This will go a long way to addressing the shortage of women leaders, with reports suggesting that only 24.9% of top management positions are occupied by women.
Overcoming gender inequality in the workplace
For many young women of colour, workplace experiences can be littered with instances of sexism and racism. It's hard to believe we're still dealing with this kind of prejudice in corporate South Africa. It's time to bridge the gender equality gap so that more women can achieve their goals and contribute in the way they’re meant to. With the right support young women have the power to make their dreams come true, irrespective of the challenges they might have faced personally or in society as a whole. The Sivuka programmes have been developed with their best interests at heart, offering young women a strategic advantage in a competitive job market.
Regardless of personal circumstances or corporate stereotypes, young women have the power to break barriers and change the world. Just think about all of the women that have come before and fought for their rights. Their tenacity is the reason we can open our own bank accounts, buy houses or start businesses, but it doesn't stop there. When a young girl tells you she's going to be an astronaut, engineer, or CEO, don't look surprised. Because her dreams are valid and, as we've seen, achievable. So our role is simple. By giving young women the opportunity to receive mentoring, coaching, and training in their first roles, from professional women who have walked the path they are embarking on, we can jumpstart their careers and assist them in following their dreams.
We need mass action of movement of young girls into these roles and to support them from an organisational point of view – if we want to achieve long-term gender equality and make our sisters proud.
*Ashalia Maharajh is the founder and Director of Sivuka Youth.
**The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL or of title sites.
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