Woman, Wake Up!

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Save for the obvious public blunders by the likes of advocate Lindi Nkosi-Thomas, who made a spectacle of herself at the Constitutional Court hearing in representation of Speaker of Parliament Baleka Mbete this week; and lest we forget Judge Thokozile Masipa’s blinded bid to save Oscar Pistorius-one would have to admit that women fall short in supporting one another.

Yet again, the defining moment this week has also been the vindication of advocate Thuli Madonsela in the entire Nkandla saga. Sweet. Some of us knew that the day of reckoning would come for a lot of those who sank to the lowest lows by jumping on the bandwagon to shame her, particularly by using her looks as a weapon.

It wasn’t just the men within the you-know-which-governing-party and its alliance partners but, not surprisingly, the women.

Recently, in crowded rush hour traffic, my bus driver was trying to manoeuvre through the nightmarish Jan Smuts Avenue.  An indistinct car happened to stall (or something to that effect) on the road. The driver kept quiet but there was audible chatter in the two seats behind me. The two women said in unison, “O etsang? and ke mosadi!”. Noted.

The second incident happened on the morning of a different day. This time, the bus driver was trying to allow as much people in the bus as possible and requested those in the isle to move further back. He then nonchalantly mentioned to his colleague how “these women”, he said “once they get in the bus- that’s enough, they don’t care about accommodating the next person getting in”. Noted.

So, what’s seems to be the problem here? Nothing new. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi-Adichie stated in her now famous “Why we should all be feminists” talk how, from childhood, girls are conditioned to compete for the affections of men and to “aspire to marriage” but never for jobs,etc.

This is partly true, but one could go further and suggest that the fight doesn’t end with fighting for men but continues into workplaces, common spaces and any other place we get an opportunity to size each other up. The working relationship of two women is more likely to have different dynamics as compared to that of two men.

This fight is often than not self-defeating and destructive. The truth is, a lot of the time we (and I mean women) support others not because of their need for it…but because it is convenient for us.

In her book  Lean In: Women, work and the will to lead, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg muses that while women’s professional advancement depends on society (men and women) doing things differently, it’s actually women already in leadership who hold the key to pulling those below to the top.

Sandberg cites that our common experiences and challenges place us in a better position to not only empathise with one another but to also effect sustainable, meaningful change. Yet there aren’t nearly enough women at the top or junior professionals striving for leadership- we’re too busy looking out for ourselves; battling with ourselves and others. We could possibly be our own worst enemies.

The mere recollection of one group supporting a man during his rape trial years ago and marching for his dignity a decade on while being aloof on critical gender issues reveals a sad state of affairs.

Ultimately, we can chant as many slogans as we want and declare a fierce “sisterhood” (and that’s probably a step in the right direction) but until we face the fact that we wouldn’t say anything positive either about a woman who is strong, holds her own and unapologetic about her choices or offer a helping hand to one who seems down and out, all of this will just be white noise.

G*

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Dear 2015

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I ought to have known that something was completely off when I started writing less. I lost touch, focusing more on the things that needed to be done than those that truly filled my essence and made me appreciate the beauty of life.

Have I told you how interesting watching people and events from afar is? The things we learn are simply infinite and our differences all the more vibrant. Watching others from a distance is one thing – looking at your own existence is another.

It would appear that the more involved we are with ourselves, the less we see of the world around us. I took a step outside myself and stood at a point where I could see myself for the person I am (and for the person I used to be).

When you are fortunate enough to gain perspective on your own dark side and to witness the monsters that sometimes fester inside, it is an uphill battle to get to higher ground but equally emancipating process.

You were my year to not only gain me, but to also see the world for what it is. I gained me, in so many ways. I lost many people close to me-severed age old friendships and stood in solitude. Pain. None spared. I still realized the world is a wonderful place to be in, and life truly a blessing when you can still change things at every given moment. Aren’t we lucky?

The biggest lesson has been that when you lose some things you gain others. Most of the time, we weep over our losses and lose sight of the good that has come to soothe the pain. My biggest gain was regaining faith in something bigger than myself. That remains my rock. It goes without saying that faith and ultimately, hope, needs to be backed up with action.

I have not deferred from my life’s path and still believe that the best is yet to come. There are still many more things to write about, experiences to live through and skies to soar.

PS: To those who have read my blogs even through my absence, I see you-and I thank you. I hope you find your own way through the maze that is life.

Wishing you a safe holiday season and a kick-ass 2016!

G*

 

 

 

Reputation Matters

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My late teens were arguably the most tumultuous and complex years of my life. There was a lot going on; most of which resulting from the apparent lack of control I had over my life then.

The word “angry” soon became synonymous with my name. The regularity of being called angry bothered me. Did it come from a valid place? Was it true? Could I fix it? Why would I want to fix it?

Yes, I was angry. ‘Probably have been my entire life. I poured most of it out in my journals which proved to be very therapeutic. I knew then what I know now -that you can never be in control of the world’s perception of you.

It also makes one’s life a lot easier to not obsess much about that. Either way, your character will always speak volumes.

An incident that occurred this week brought home the realization that my reputation is important to me. While I may not care how others perceive me in my personal life; I deeply care about how I am perceived in the professional realm. The idea of being relegated to the unreliable and untrustworthy lot got the adrenalin rushing, pulse racing and defense mode on. I needed to save face!

It is important to keep in mind that one’s reputation can make or break them; open doors or keep them closed. Many business people understand that trust is a very important currency in business.

Trust is key to building relationships, advancement and creating viable networks. None of these would pass without a good reputation in place. Hence, a good reputation is invaluable.

It isn’t surprising to see more and more businesses actively enlisting the services of PR agencies for Reputation Management purposes because, simply put-mistrust is costly.

The most recent example is the KFC Braamfontein meat scandal that saw the franchise scrambling to restore its image. They will probably not suffer a great loss of sales, but people will always wonder.

The good news is that a tarnished reputation can be salvaged… with a bit of extra effort.

G*

Fight or Flight?

It is a hot day in Johannesburg. Just past midday, it feels like one has entered hell’s kitchen. It is ridiculously hot when one considers how nippy it’s been sometimes.

A refreshing stroll down Jorrissen in the hub of Braamfontein has done wonders for my current mental state. Relief is the word.

So, I get into a taxi and bargain with the driver to take me up Jan Smuts and he obliges. I thank him profusely, grateful that I can get back to the office on time.

Sitting on the passenger seat is a woman. I now realize she is his girlfriend. A moment ago, I was oblivious to the tension building up in the air- I had just entered a battleground.

A fervent exchange of words in Xitsonga takes place right before my eyes and at best I attempt to avoid the commotion. I’m bolstered back into reality by the driver slapping the woman with the back of his hand. “Oh no, oh NO!!” What is happening? What do I do?? I sit there. Shocked. I do nothing, say nothing. A short trip has turned into a long one.

On the 9th of March, the news of Nkululeko “Flabba” Habedi’s tragic death spread through our media pores like wildfire. In what is speculated to have been a lover’s argument, Flabba was fatally stabbed through the heart by his girlfriend.

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“A woman is killed by an intimate partner every eight hours in South Africa, a probable underestimate because no perpetrator is identified in 20 percent of killings, according to a study […] co-authored by Professor Rachel Jewkes of the South African Medical Research Council” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/08/south-africa-violence-against-women_n_2837804.html

Whether this in response to already existing abuse or mishandling by their spouses, the numbers of women languishing in prison for serious crimes such as murder and attempted murder tells another story.

This is the harsh reality many live with on a daily basis. Some live with the scars while some never get to tell their story. What would you do if you found yourself in the middle of a violent altercation?

As incensed as I felt, I chose to not get involved. It was a selfish decision- I thought of my child and what would become of her in the event that I interfered in the affairs of total strangers- only to lose my life in the process.

I thought of my own upbringing and remembered the violence in it; and how damaged I am. I also thought how dangerous it is (can be) to get caught up in other people’s vicious cycle of upswings and turbulence.

My experience with physical violence has made me wary of anything that smacks of- or comes close to violence. It has completely dis-empowered and weakened me and I’m afraid I won’t be a martyr. I am a coward.

Some say we attract who we are. Therefore, how we feel- and what we believe about ourselves reflects in the world around us. We ultimately draw people who can sense our insecurities (and whom are insecure themselves) into our lives without even knowing it.

Sometimes we pay dearly for this…

…In my mother’s words: “Gaabo legatlapa ga go lliwe”.

 

 

Give and Take- What are we missing?

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The idea -and act- of giving is my passion. I have written about it on many of my blogs because it is something I value- not only in myself but in others as well. I believe if one is able to give (read share) then they’ve realized the value of a purpose driven life.

I admire individuals who give effortlessly, selflessly and without expecting a pat on the back. For this reason,it never ceases to amaze me when someone gives to another and broadcasts it to the world. An awkward incident occurred on my birthday last month, that really took me aback and made me realize that…well, we are cut from different cloths sometimes.

As the recipient of a particular gift, it was extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing to have someone announce to people around what they had presented to me on the day. Very unnecessary.

A profound tweet was posted this week: “Don’t eat with someone who is going to brag about feeding you”. It summarizes what I deem to be narcissism in  some people. This is primarily because ideally the onus should be on the recipient to show gratitude in their own manner. In all honesty, making utterances like “I gave someone X amount of money to do YZ” or “I gave Gomo’ XY because blah blah” is very distasteful.

Perhaps that is why Corporate Social Responsibility seems to be a bit of a farce. It is said that, “CSR policy functions as a self-regulatory mechanism whereby a business monitors and ensures its active compliance with the spirit of the law [and] ethical standards”.

Today CSR is firmly entrenched in many corporates (and it is a good thing, don’t get me wrong) and they can donate a few things to the disadvantaged, take a few snaps and get some publicity out of it. The more the better, so they can see we genuinely have the interests of society at heart.

Perhaps they can be forgiven because they need to do some sort of reporting? Then again, CSR is also linked to business objectives- which means the more a company is seen to be doing good, the more likely it is to get more business: that’s capitalism giving us the middle finger.

I reckon there is a significant difference between giving because one has to- as opposed to one being inclined to. Motivation is a defining factor and ultimately determines whether an act of giving is genuine. Otherwise it is nothing but an attention seeking, point scoring and meaningless gesture.

What does “giving” mean to you? Let me leave you to mull on this with the words of Mother Teresa, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

 

Ode to Bongani “B” Mahlangu

I reckon that sometimes it is necessary to get out of the ordinary scheme of things; to escape normality and do things differently.

Today is one such day for me; an opportunity to pay tribute to a man who believed in me so much that he went to all lengths to make sure that my dreams became reality.

Ours is a relationship that began in 2011 following an article I had written as an unemployed graduate. Through him, I was given the opportunity to go on radio and tell my story. Doors opened as I was also able to gain access to one of the most formidable men in the Coaching fraternity, Mongezi Makhalima– who served as an invaluable life guide.

Both taught me that it’s important to have vision, drive and determination because it makes it easier for people to support you.

We show gratitude in different ways: We cry, salute and smile. Sometimes words escape us and we don’t know how to say “thank you”- not sure if it’s enough at all. I guess the greatest lesson that Bongani has taught me is that the rewards of giving are greater than the rewards of receiving. Giving of your time, resources, networks and knowledge can benefit others ten-fold (even more).

Especially important is that the baton gets passed on and they also give of themselves to others in need. That is how better societies are built!

To Bongani…Words can never be enough to express how proud I am to be associated with you and to learn from you. You did way more than you needed to for a stranger and now you are family. Ndo livhuwa nga maanda!

 

 

He’s Ben 10, What’s Your Superpower?

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So over the weekend I decided to watch the film Their Eyes Were Watching God, an adaptation of the novel by Zora Neale Hurston. Of course for the umpteenth time, but then again a good movie never goes out of style.

So Janie decides to get herself a man twelve years her junior- or rather, he happens to her! I suppose love does come in shapes and sizes, and it’s not quite what we anticipate at times. Obviously, the entire town watches the love affair with great intrigue and expects it to go downhill. After all, she’s the revered mayor’s wife and he just a hood-rat; probably looking for a quick buck.

What I also did was to look at websites catering to the infamous Cougar and found Gerry Ellenon writing candidly on the “10 Rules of Dating a Younger Man”. Ten Rules. I thought how strange it is that such rules exist; more like breeding a Maltese Poodle or something! What a lot of work these Ben 10’s are…“Keep exercising and eating well, do Yoga and meditate”- Be impressed and supportive BUT please- DON’T MOTHER HIM!

Personally, I’ve never encountered as many rules being applicable to Sugar-daddies- if they give them a second thought anyway. The rule of thumb is simple : Just have deep pockets, the rest will follow. So, one gets the sense that the older, more confident woman without much hang-ups is really nothing but a facade.

Anyway, I’ve never understood the allure of a younger man. This is simply because of my bossy nature and knowing how being in that situation would push me to be domineering. Besides this, I’ve always been of the opinion that sex begins in the mind before it wanders off elsewhere.

It’s been scientifically proven that women’s brains mature faster than men’s. Mental stimulation is underrated when in fact it is a significant factor that can determine the longevity of a relationship. Therefore, maturity is non-negotiable.

Playing mum to a full-grown man isn’t all that appealing to yours truly I’m afraid and gets in the way of any advancement toward a “real” relationship.I hear this is sexy in some circles- many more circles than we are aware of these days. Again, a (huge) part of older women’s attraction to younger men is the sex. Nothing makes a cougar’s heart beat faster than virility, abs, energy, enthusiasm; it’s crazy 🙂

One cannot deny the huge ego boost that comes from getting the nod from someone younger- it gives you the feeling of relevance and that you haven’t become a fossil- just yet. It provides motivation for one to be more aware of themselves, to groom well etc: Things we should be doing for our own benefit anyway! So, while the heat is bound to fizzle at some point for some; for others it’s a dizzying fairytale- Just ask aus Monkie! 😉

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Different strokes for different folks, they say.

Age is…

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Every Friday in my office we have a culture of asking the “Friday Question” and this could be any question under the sun with the aim of getting to know fellow team members better.

Most of the time the responses from these questions are interesting, funny and give one a sense of having better understanding of the other.

My questions have always been controversial- and this is not because they have anything to do with religion, politics, sexuality or anything that is not permissible in the office. I’ve been told that, well…I’m just too deep. Perhaps I should have been a Psychologist instead?

Anyway, I posed this question this week: “At what age did you become an adult?” Pretty simple question I thought, and if not, it would be a nice way for people to apply their minds. I was mistaken and realized that what we perceive is shaped by where we come from and our experiences. All of that comes together to shape reality as we know it.

I love this quote by Martha Graham, “‘Age’ is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years.”

How many times have you looked at some people and thought their age is not in line with their maturity (or lack thereof- read stupid)? How do we then effectively gauge whether someone is mature or not without imposing our beliefs on them? We can’t. Without applying our own experiences and knowledge- and therefore judgement on the actions and behaviour of others, we would probably see the world in monochrome.

I had a conversation with a friend about a family member of his who bought a car that he cannot  maintain despite the fact that he couldn’t even put fuel in it without asking for cash from someone else. It didn’t come as a surprise considering the number of people who live beyond their means.

The saying, “age is nothing but a number” is often used to define and/or justify cross generational relationships, among other things. The phrase also correctly indicates that the crux of maturity lies in discipline, responsibility and one’s ability to respond to their environment appropriately more than it does on actual age. We see immaturity in others when we realize the deficiency in these qualities.

In the same instance adulthood does not necessarily equate maturity. I became an adult at the age of twenty-two when I had my child and even though I had assumed full and unequivocal responsibility of her and my own circumstances, I feel maturity had not quite settled in. This was long after the age of 18 when I could legally drink whatever titillated my taste buds, etc.

In essence, maturity is work in progress. For some it comes very early; for some just in the nick of time and for others  – it just never shows up!

Dear Mageza

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Having been a victim of an unprovoked verbal attack on my way to work this morning, I feel I need to say a few things.

I am not certain, however, that you will read any of this-seeing how things like reading are last on your list of priorities. Again, you say absurd things like “stelling” when you mean “steering wheel” but that’s none of my business since I know better than to ridicule anyone who doesn’t speak the Queen’s language properly.

It’s funny because you like things: You put up bumper stickers all over the place, about overweight people, people not being allowed to doze off in the front seat and lo and behold that people ought to shut up because they don’t have cars- we must see you, we must feel you. And who the hell told you that everyone who takes a taxi doesn’t have a car of their own??

Then again, your narrow-mindedness precedes you! You probably suffer an inadequacy complex, you can frog march people because it gives you some sort of power and that’s the thing-we let you get away with it.

This Mageza rained on yours truly this morning following a request to be dropped off where I get off each and every morning. He maintained that he had asked where everyone was going. “I speak Tswana”, I said- wait, is it a cardinal sin to not speak Zulu in Johannesburg? When did Zulu become our primary national language?It doesn’t end there, he continues his tirade by telling another that if he were to insult me-I would hear. Yes, I heard everything. I maintained a dignified silence. It could have been cowardice or perhaps the realization that no wise person in their right mind should argue with a moron.

Now, dear Mageza, you are uncouth and arrogant- the last word should always be yours. No matter what. You treat commuters like they owe you the world, as if your service is a favour. That’s what you do when you overload a taxi and expect everyone to pay the same price; when your seats are so in ruins one has to hold on for dear life to avoid falling over; when you risk the lives of passengers by skipping traffic lights.

You bask so well in the stereotypes attached to you that you ruin it for other taxi drivers who are decent and treat commuters with respect. I will not offer any remedies for your condition or try to school you- you are a lost cause, completely consumed by the little world you inhabit; complete in waking up and not impacting positively on the world around you. Unfortunately, half of this country depends on the taxi industry to bridge the gap between home and workplace-so you must be chuffed.

I’ll tell you though that customer service and courtesy is not some foreign exercise meant for the corporate world or as you would say “those who know too mush (much)”, they are everywhere you go. Respect is earned and not demanded.

Sincerely,

Gomo’

Witchcraft, The Money-Spinner

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God is BIG business. If you don’t believe me, ask any preacher or prophet or son of God in any charismatic denomination and you’ll have your answer. You can also look no further than Mfonobong Nsehe’s profiling of the Five Richest Pastors in Nigeria . Theirs are religious franchises- think Chris Oyakhilome’s Christ Embassy, David Oyedepo’s Living Water World Outreach Ministry, etc.

The former reminds me of my varsity years when fellow-students had a knack for doing that distinctive hairstyle that looked like an entire jar of gel was used on the hair (to mimic Oyakhilome’s, I suppose) and with the latter I recall the period just before Y2K when some were happy to swap their frilly Sunday skirts for jeans to church.

The age of men and women of the cloth living near-pauper existences seems to be a thing of the past. Nsehe sums it up nicely by writing, “…while the Bible expressly states that salvation is free, at times it comes with a cost; offerings, tithes, gifts to spiritual leaders…”

For me, this brings memories of sitting in church a few months ago with about twenty Rand in my purse-my last money- wondering if it would be enough to pay for the second of two offerings in one service (plus tithe). There were also subtle threats that one’s blessings would be locked up somewhere if tithe is not paid.

On about two occasions that I sat in that church, one couldn’t help but feel as if we’d just switched on to a sales channel as the prophet brought out the big guns: A bottle of ‘holy’ perfume that he endorsed for being able to help one attract a divine partner and any other opportunity one desired. He also brought out a bottle of anointed oil, originally bottled as a combination of olive & other essential oils from Checkers. Yep, that green bottle behind the pew. No less than R 100 a pop.

As the witchcraft trilogy comes to conclusion, I am reminded of Newton’s third Law of motion; for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this instance, the belief in witchcraft, -while for years has filled the coffers of traditional/witch-doctors through individuals who sought to ‘protect’ themselves and/or cause harm to others- also created a gap in the spiritual “market” which continues to be exploited by charismatic evangelists.

Sitting among a group of people during deliverance and hearing some bizarre testimonies, as well as a conversation with a very religious friend of mine proved just how seriously witchcraft is taken. Since I couldn’t point a finger at anyone specific for my apparent ‘misfortune’ (nobody had been killed by my prayers) I had to wonder if witchcraft mechanics fear big city lights; whether they prefer to roam around in the still darkness that characterizes most villages instead.

An article by BBC Africa Live states that witchcraft has, for many years played a role in rebellions, fighting wars and possibly found its way into every nook and cranny of society. This has made the success of charismatic churches an easy one, as they laugh all the way to the bank for commodifying God and identifying a spiritual gap that conventional churches seemingly can’t fill.

Most importantly, the charismatic movement continues to appeal to the need for instant gratification that a lot of people have. For some, money is no issue if they can get their divine partner, marriage, money, or if they can get those haters off their backs. Many are attracted by the idea of attaining things they haven’t worked a day in their lives for; many are desperate for miracles. Are they any different to a person who visits a traditional doctor to achieve the same result? Is it a case of the kettle calling the pot black?

I believe that a lot of people cannot deal with their reality, especially if it turns out to be less than desirable. I also believe that one’s overall perception can be affected by that. Some resort to extreme measures, others look to faith and others remain despondent. In all situations every action has consequences.

It would be naïve for anyone to assume that there aren’t things bigger than us-(good or bad) or people who always stand to gain from others’ misfortune – yet we must always remember that the universe works in our favour once we learn to be the masters of our individual destinies.

In closing, consider this Bible verse: Matthew 7:15