When Zozibini Tunzi was crowned Miss Universe, it was an especially joyous occasion for many black women and girls, who had their eyes glued on to their TV screen in suspense and in glee. But, nothing stole those hearts more than an answer which she gave encouraging the confidence of women and girls alike: “We should be given every opportunity…” the beauty queen said, ‘’ and that is what we should be teaching these young girls: to take up space. Nothing is as important as taking up space in society and cementing yourself.”
“Maybe it’s a good thing that women are meant to be seen and not heard. That way, they can’t hear us coming [for everything!]”
The idea of cementing myself has been on my mind since I heard her say those words. I once heard that when men introduce themselves, they would start off with their name, go into detail about what they did professionally and then maybe include that they are a husband and or father. This was said to be the opposite to how women introduced themselves… name, their marital status, talking about their kids and should it come up, what they do professionally. Whether this is true or not I can’t say for sure, but it did have me wondering whether the current generation of women is that complacent with being seen and not heard or if they’ve changed the narrative of “being seen” all together?
It’s no secret that for years women have been seen as inferior by their male counterparts. Interestingly, the phrase “to be seen and not heard” coined in the 15th century by the English, was actually intended for women and not children. With this being my third (public) ‘In My Opinion’ piece, I have a feeling that you’ve gathered my advocacy for the female population, all that has to do with its advancement and our not-so-secret mandate to take over the world. With that said, I could easily enlighten you with facts around the wage gap, the constitutions and organizational cultures in many parts of the world, which ironically, still ensure women are still systematically oppressed etc. etc. etc.
Instead, I thought I should shake things up a bit and give you some interesting facts that I recently came across…
- Senior Director, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum_ Elsie Kanza [A woman]
- Vice President of Liberia _ Jewel Taylor [A woman]
- CEO-designate of Bidvest Group_ Nompumelelo Madisa [A Woman]
- Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group_ Amina J. Mohammed [A woman]
- Executive Director, International Trade Centre_ Dorothy Tambo [A woman]
- Fighter pilot, South Africa_ Major Mandisa Mfeka [A woman]
- Deputy Minister of Information and Communication Technology, Namibia _ Emma Inamutila Theofelus [A 23 year old woman]
- Vice-Chancellor, University of Cape Town_ Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng [A woman]
… As if this little game of mine wasn’t fun enough, let me just end off with saying this: I do not take it for granted that different levels of economic advancement, social status’, development and cultural differences may all be a factor in how women advance within their respective countries. However, the opportunity for advancement is one that should not be denied in the first place.
I hope the current generation of women know that they have the right to take up space, but more importantly, continue to take up space. I hope as women, we don’t stop going for what we want. I hope we don’t shut up about the things we need and we have the mindful awareness to be appropriately selfish. “I think the most important thing we should be teaching young girls today is leadership. It’s something that has been lacking in young girls and women for a very long time. Not because we don’t want to, but because of what society has labelled women to be.” Zozibini Miss Universe Tunzi.
Maybe it’s a good thing that women are meant to be seen and not heard. That way, they can’t hear us coming [for everything!]