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The Stages of Womanhood

Growing up with five sisters has been rewarding. They have all been role models to me for all my childhood and adolescent years. As a child, I would wait eagerly for one of my sisters to come home from school to give me permission to wear her Sketchers sneakers. Ok, neither of us ever needed permission to wear any clothing item, which is what became the source of conflict amongst us for years. I’ve always wanted to mirror what I admired in each of them, for example their independence and success-driven nature. My experience as a sibling of six has motivated this piece on the Stages of Womanhood.

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Puberty

You’re on the school playground, standing amongst your friends. You can’t help but notice some of them have developed bulging breasts and you wonder: “when am I next?”. During a game of hopscotch one girl suddenly and frantically exclaims: “Look! Blood!” -Embarrassed, she rushes home. She had just experienced her first period at the tender age of 12. Nobody knew when their time would come. We did however know that it symbolized an evolution from a girl to a young woman. Getting breasts and buying your first sports bra was a much-anticipated event in a young girl’s life. Ten years later we’re dreaming of returning home after a long day to take our bras off, to exhale in deep relief.

 

Adolescence

Adolescence is a period marked by exploration of our new and increasing desires as well as the world’s perception and expectation of us. We seek to discover who and what we are and our place in the world, especially as a young woman.

‘Why don’t they like me?’ ‘Why won’t he just LOOK at me?’ ‘How can I improve in this subject I hate so much or love, but doesn’t seem to reciprocate this love?’ ‘Mother wants me to pursue a career in medicine… Exams! OMG. Will I pass? Oh, Lord, help me.’

That’s pretty much how most of us experience adolescence, constant questioning and navigating through high school trying to establish an identity. If you’ve gotten through this incredibly confusing stage you’re already WINNING.

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The Identity Crisis

You’re in a class at a college or university you didn’t think you’d even get into wondering if this is really what you want to study. Who am I, really? Who decided that this is who I will be? Suddenly now even you are a philosopher. And what on earth is this strange and impervious pressure I feel from no longer just myself and my family, but also from society, the media, and the job market? Will I make it? Am I strong enough?  What are my chances of success?

You may have decided to take a gap year, or to work part-time. Whatever decisions you make at this point have a ripple effect on your future. Your identity will ultimately be based on where you spend most of your time, and what or who you frequently focus your energies on. If you’re spending all your time doing something you don’t want to be doing, you are welcoming an identity crisis. Don’t be afraid to pursue yourself. You can only experience the ocean by immersing yourself in it.

The Love Crisis

So, you’ve probably already fallen in love. But you’re asking yourself is he the one you want to invest your future and life in, because relationships are investments. More importantly you’re asking yourself what ROLES you are comfortable with – that of a mother, wife, and all the unspoken roles we adopt daily that we are not conscious of. You’re evaluating the quality of your relationships at this stage, your friendships and romantic relationships. You’ve got to prune the tree of your life which may mean ending friendships, and ending romantic relationships sometimes. Your goals and the roles you will adopt are bound to eclipse with those of others, this is a stage of growth. You may become a mother, a wife, or both, or neither in this stage. Your identity will inevitably become guided by these roles. Embrace every minute of it. No teacher is greater than that of experience.

 

The Self-Actualized Woman

Abraham Maslow developed the hierarchy of human needs, and at the top lies the need to become self-actualized. The self-actualized woman accepts her true self, has developed a willingness to succeed and to improve, has embraced and accepted both her strengths and weaknesses, has a strong internal command over her inner self, as well as the power and ability to influence her environment. She is self-aware, self-forgiving, and does not compare herself to others. Mark Twain wrote; “Comparison is the death of joy”.

There is no specific role, job, or dream that can provide a woman with this kind of fulfilment, at least not completely. This is found somewhere along her journey and somewhere inside herself. It is a fire that cannot be extinguished. A force that many young girls will strive to emulate and imitate. You will become a force to be reckoned with – both in the household, in the workplace and in society.IMG-20170524-WA0006

In conclusion, there are critical moments in life where you will be faced with decisions about who you are and what you will be. They are not stages, but moments. You decide what woman you want to be, the doors are opened to us, all you need is courage to walk through them.

-Crissy Wagner

Anxiety, the invisible monster Part 3 – The triangle of anxiety & Cognitive Distortions

Anxiety Triangle

So I mentioned rumination in the last article. How does this work? Rumination is your monster’s strongest tool in its box and it manifests as a worrying thought. “I’m going to fail the test tomorrow.” “No one likes me.” These thoughts are pushed into your mind by the monster and play on loop over and over again. They ruminate.

If your thought is, “I am going to fail the test”…you’d feel pretty worried right? Listening to this thought over and over and getting more and more anxious each time. Indeed, and this is how the thought causes you to feel intense emotions. The emotions get to a point where it triggers your behaviour – you snap and perhaps have a panic attack in public or break down in private to release this huge pressure of emotion. If it’s in public, you either feel embarrassed and the thought pops in your head “I’ve just shown my weakness in public and now no one likes me” or it can happen the other way around and the cycle starts all over again. We can thus assume that this cycle is in the shape of a triangle, and the anxiety triangle does exist. It is pictured above.

So how do we stop the cycle? One way is to keep a worry journal. The thought is usually the first to happen, so writing it down as it happens is important. As you start writing it down, try to imagine yourself boxing it away, especially if you can’t deal with it right away. Set yourself a time to deal with the thought that is in the book. When you get into this routine, you’ll find it easier to push the thought away before it overwhelms you in the moment. In your ‘worry time,’ go back to the thought. As time passes by you will actually engage with it better, but if you want to deal with it right away (and have the time to do so, do it!).

Cognitive Distortions:

Now, let’s discuss how you categorise the thought and also learn what kinds of things your anxiety monsters likes to focus on.

Lets say you have the thought “I’m going to fail the test.”

Thoughts list

You’ve written it down, now we need to identify what type of thought it is. What type of distortion your little monster is creating. One thought can be several cognitive distortions at the same time. Behold a list above.

Labelling is definitely one. We’re assigning something to ourselves. Fortune telling, a branch of jumping to conclusions is another. We’re trying to predict a future event. It could also be black and white thinking. I mean, doing bad in the test is also a possibility, but still passing. Are we catastrophizing? Well…that depends. This is the part where you need to start addressing the thought.

Is it accurate? Lets find some evidence. Have I studied for more than an hour? Do I know some if not all of the work? If no, then fix this. But its most likely you have, and the monsters just getting overexcited. If you’re struggling to figure out whether you know the work, get a friend or family member to help you, quiz you for the test and see if they think you know your stuff. It’s best not to always rely on a friend, but sometimes things get too much and we can’t analyse our thoughts entirely alone. As you get more practise, you’ll get better at analysing, but you need to practise it. Now that you’ve studied a bit more, do you feel better? If the thought pops in your head before the test or at the test, then ask yourself: Is this true? Do I know some of the work? Do I know enough to make me pass (not do I know EVERYTHING, because remember…the goal is actually NOT to fail).

These are example challenges for a thought, but we will get to more of these in the next article.

-Sasha-lee Schafli

The future of education, innovation and technology in South Africa, Should we be worried?

I am an engineer and generally introverted. But I was asked to talk about the future of education, innovation and technology in South Africa, and make it sound interesting… I don’t even know how to make things interesting, but I’ll try. I’ll be touching on the fourth industrial revolution and whether we should be scared or not. So let’s start with taking a cold shower.

Cold Shower

So, first, education. What do I think education is?

I think that education should be empowering the next generation to surpass the current one. So, it should be a tool to uplift the poor. In South Africa, there are two main branches of education, broadly speaking, public school and private school. Followed by tertiary education which are colleges, university or Technikons. After finishing school, you are expected to go out and contribute to society. You normally have two options, go work, or go study. And in the South African context, If you don’t have a “Matric” or Grade 12 certificate, your chances of finding a job are low, or you are unemployed.

According to Stats SA, the population is spread as 41 mil, 4.6 mil, 1.2 mil, 4.6 mil, black, coloured, indian and white South Africans. In 2008 the unemployment rate was 23.5 %, and at the end of 2016 26.5 %. So why in South Africa in 2017 with a population of roughly 50 million people, is there a 25-27 % unemployment percentage? This unemployment percentage corresponds to roughly 13 million people. And roughly half of that (6.5 mil) are youth Unemployment (Under the age of 35). Should we be worried? What is the cause? Fault of Government? Fault of Apartheid? Entitlement? Industrialisation? Politics? Innovation? Access to information? Little future foresight? I don’t know. There are obvious consequences of such high unemployment, For now, High crime levels in South Africa.

The news of the fourth industrial revolution is possibly going to make this worse. If you haven’t already heard about it, you can watch this video by the world economic forum to gain insight:

If you didn’t get a chance to watch the video, here is a summary of the parts I thought were interesting:

  1. The world is changing and the fourth industrial revolution will change us, the human species.’
  2. There will be moves towards a convergence of digital, physical and biological technologies.
  3. We need a new economic model which will cater to every human on the planet within the constraints of the planet that will be fairer by maximising human wellbeing.
  4. What does it mean to be human?
  5. Can we get to be Super humans?
  6. Can we visualise brain activity?
  7. Will there be Freedom of thought?
  8. What will be the future of work and how will we define it?
  9. How will we share the wealth?
  10. How can you incentivise learning with such easy access to information?

The technologies which will drive this fourth industrial revolution are believed to be artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing.

It is currently estimated that these jobs will eliminate 5-20 % of existing jobs. Maybe your children will be taught by robots. Or in South Africa, the meter taxi drivers and uber drivers will all lose their jobs. Maybe it will take a little longer to reach South Africa, but the technology exists today.

For me as an engineer who finds all this new technology exciting, I am also faced with the realty that it doesn’t change the fact that today there are 15 million South Africans who don’t even have a job in today’s day and age. Many South Africans don’t have the means to put food on the table. Maybe innovation and technology is doing more harm than good to the outcomes of the third industrial revolution? Somehow, within the next 5-10 years, the 7 million youth unemployed people will need jobs. And I hope you didn’t forget that the children will need to be educated to meet this new revolution. That said, if you haven’t realised by now, this is the part where you go Oh F***.

Frog

How are we going to solve this problem? I have no idea. I think right now, South Africa could expand job creation in the construction and agriculture industries. Why? Because, you need jobs for people who mostly don’t have a matric. Construction and agriculture offer development opportunities because these industries easily achieve the target for a labour intensive workforce.

On that note, Mckinsy recommended in the 2012 Africa report that huge labour intensive farming for bio-fuels will provide jobs. This is only while assuming that robotics is far enough away from South Africa that this industry may be viable for the next 15 years.

Until government or industry start investing in these areas our job landscape will continue to be barren like the karoo and kalahari. In the meantime, the education sector needs to be changed by giving children access to the internet, in bulk, so that it is not financially viable to steal or sell computers. Children need to be taught enough to understand what they learn, but also enough to question what they learn. Is it valid? Is it correct? Is it historically accurate?

Both education and job creation will be like taking a cold shower. Because they’re unpleasant. I haven’t touched on many other issues like socio-economic things and race issues, because I don’t have all the answers. But for now, I will try to Wake Up and Shake Up South Africa.

-Andrew M. Hank

Anxiety, the invisible monster Part 2 – Naming and shaming

Today, let’s name our anxiety monster. Mine is Alyssa. It is named after a geeky game warrior who led a rebellion and saved her people – so, a good guy. Try to picture your monster. Maybe it looks like Toby Allen’s representation from the last article. Maybe it looks like a little rainbow unicorn that gets a bit too feisty with its horn. Or a Pikachu or Pokémon if you’re into that. If you’re artistic enough, you can even try and draw it and put a picture up on the wall so you can see it. Why? Because you need to see it. You need to know it is there and that your experience with your monster is not just in your head; more importantly, you need to know that just because it’s a little monster, doesn’t mean it’s evil.

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But how can you say that? That little monster gives me chest pain, gives me all these miserable thoughts, makes me feel depressed. How can something like that be good? Well, to be honest… that little monster is trying to save your life. You see, anxiety is caught up in our flight/fight response. When we get faced with a particularly stressful situation, this little guy is responsible for gearing us into either fight gear or flight gear. Unfortunately, anxiety loves its job so much that it tends to go overboard. A little drama queen if you will.

That’s why it’s up to us to tell it that it’s being a drama queen. So… When the rumination starts or when you’re in panic attack mode, go to a quiet place, even if it’s a public bathroom, go into a cubicle and say, “[your monster’s name] now cut it out. This isn’t as life-threatening of a situation as you’re making it out to be. I will be just fine. I’m safe and I can handle my situation perfectly fine on my own without your interference. I know you care, though, so thanks. But you can stop now!”

I see what you’re doing, I know what’s going on. You will then be empowering yourself against it.

Heck, if being angry with the little gremlin helps you, go for it. Rant at it. Write it letters if you can’t speak out loud. The most important thing is that you’re looking your little monster straight in the eye, going: “HA! I see what you’re doing, I know what’s going on.” You will then be empowering yourself against it.

Of course, this will take some time to get used to. I cannot stress enough how important it is that you practice this type of technique as often as possible. The more you practice, the more effective it will become. If your imagination isn’t that good, our next technique will focus more on writing. This technique won’t just be about writing letters, but unpacking the actual thoughts that make you stress. We’ll discuss working with those thoughts in order to empower them yourself against them.

-Sasha-Lee Schafli

Anxiety, the invisible monster – Part 1. The symptoms

Anxiety. It could manifest itself as social anxiety, general anxiety, simple shakes or damaging panic attacks. Most our anxiety may be caused by other people or exam results. It is an invisible monster that we hide from the world and often from ourselves.

Art by Toby

“P.S. You’re not going to die. Here’s the white-hot truth: if you go bankrupt, you’ll still be okay. If you lose the gig, the lover, the house, you’ll still be okay. If you sing off-key, get beat by the competition, have your heart shattered, get fired…it’s not going to kill you. Ask anyone who’s been through it.” Daneille LaPorte

I discovered that I had anxiety last year and since then, have made remarkable steps to changing my life. For years I thought that something was wrong with me, with an eating disorder caused from anxiety, two suicidal episodes and bottomless pits of depression that were all caused by the monster that is anxiety. If you have anxiety, or think you do, then this series of articles were written for you. My goal for this article is to make you aware of the many shapes and forms of anxiety.

Common Symptoms Anxiety:

  • I was born with a tension tremor, meaning I shake intensively due to excess amounts of adrenaline pumped out of my brain. Two years ago, I found out what my condition had been and this has helped me overcome some of it’s consequences. While the tension tremor should have been an indicator of an anxiety disorder, I didn’t know what the indicators were to start off with. It gets in the way of most activities. I always joke around and say that I may have missed my opportunity to become a million dollar surgeon.
  • Ever since I was fifteen year old; I also struggled to eat until I was full, I would often feel nauseous in the mornings. A nervous stomach is another sign of anxiety.
  • Rumination is another – the curse of having the same worried thoughts on loop. Most people ruminate, but when ones ruminations stop you from sleeping and going about your day to day activities, that’s when you know it’s of a more serious nature.
  • A sore chest used to also happen to me at night, sometimes it feels like you’re having a heart attack.
  • There’s also muscle tension in the shoulders and neck which often causes terrible tension headaches.
  • Profuse sweating is also a symptom.
  • And finally, the panic attack.

The panic attack actually has two varieties. There’s the familiar one, where people often use brown paper bags to relieve it. One hyperventilates and feels such a shortness of breath that they breathe too rapidly, causing them to feel faint and display other symptoms. The other, ones that I exhibit, don’t look like panic attacks. The victim unconsciously stops breathing, which also causes the muscles to tense and the brain to go into panic mode. The symptoms thereafter are similar to the first. In most occurrences of the secondary type of panic attack, other people around the victim don’t actually observe the victim’s symptoms, nor does the victim often realise that they’re even having a panic attack.

Now that you all are aware of how anxiety usually operates, the next few articles will deal with ways of treating anxiety by living in a more positive way! I look forward to going on this journey with you all.

-Sasha-Lee Schafli

“If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another. The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.” Deepak Chopra

Do You, Boo

Driving back to the office from the police station on a Saturday morning (I’m a lawyer, didn’t just get released from detention), when I stop at a traffic light, on the corner of Grayston and Rivonia roads. Nothing new – there’s a gentleman approaching as many motorists as he can in the few seconds that he has before the light turns green again, to request some sort of financial donation or support. The strategic planning and / or rehearsal of these traffic light hustlers has always had me quite interested. Considerations such as duration of the red light, what kinds of cars or individuals to approach first & what to say to those you approach are surely taken into account to ensure the maximization of earnings for the day? It’s not always as easy as just standing there, I always think.

“He didn’t seem homeless but rather dressed himself the way he wanted to, the way he felt he could express himself, as an artist does.”

But I digress – what got me thinking today was this particular gentleman, let’s call him Mr Musician. From the outset it must be asserted that he was obviously an artistic individual. He didn’t seem homeless but rather dressed himself the way he wanted to, the way he felt he could express himself, as an artist does. And I was not incorrect in my presumptions – this gentleman was some sort of musician, trying to cease the each red-light moment and sell as many copies of his CD as possible.

Rivonia

At this juncture I wish to express my first reason for admiring him. In today’s day simply standing and begging is not bound to reap many positive rewards. When I see the crate-dancers, or those who place amusing jokes on placards, or even the gentleman down the road from me who has been selling pens at R5 for as long as I can remember, I am actually impressed. I feel like those individuals put in an effort and thus show a certain zest for life. Those individuals haven’t let unemployment or their circumstances bring them down. They have committed to forging forward and they’re helping themselves, instead of merely depending on help. And just like majority of society I’m sure, I am very enticed to help someone who has helped themselves. Mr Musician has not merely advertised his record online and sat at home waiting for a call. Mr Musician had literally gone out onto the streets. As a former part-time store promoter I know that this is one of the hardest ways to sell a product. So kudos to him.

“…a young gentleman at a robot in Africa’s richest square mile, following his real dream.”

What’s arguably more admirable though, is Mr Musician’s dedication to his career path. I mean, I don’t know his circumstances and for all I know he may be pursuing a career in music part time. However, that would still be something to note considering he would be working five days a week at his other job and spending weekends cold-selling his music. I think my admiration really stems from the fact that I was once an aspiring artist. An aspiring singer-songwriter to be precise. I evidently did not have enough passion for said career path to continue the pursuit. Or perhaps I was just not as relentless as Mr Musician.

We live in a time when it is drilled into the mindset that one must obtain a good education, in order to secure a good job so that one can have financial security. This is a time that, more than ever before I believe, disallows people to be themselves and follow their real dreams. This is a time where money is the ultimate universal goal – a goal which is thrusted upon everyone whether that’s what they want or not. It a time when people who dare to not conform to the commerce-driven world are faced with a man-made paralyzing fear. In all honesty, I think it’s a time when the definition of humanity is being challenged.

For these reasons I think it is absolutely wonderful to see a young gentleman at a robot in Africa’s richest square mile, following his real dream. Pursuing his true passion. Doing what makes him happy, and not conforming.

Be brave

Now, I’m not advocating that everybody should forego what they’re doing in favour of artistry – such recommendation would actually be contrary to my entire point. What I am trying to highlight is the importance of not being consumed by the dictations of the world to the extent that you are told what you want to do with your life. Bravery, that’s what I intend to promote with this piece. Be brave and courageous to know yourself, what you stand for and how you want to spend your life. Because the most notable difference between Mr Musician and 70% of the motorists he approaches is that Mr Musician is poor and happy, and those motorists are rich and miserable.

– JD van der Merwe

How To Be A Better Human: Part 2_ Stop With All The Privacy

Have you ever wondered who people “bought” creations like land, mountains, beaches and forests from? Things and places that are said to be created by God, but are somehow owned by man because they paid a certain amount of money to whom?? The “owners” then charge the rest of the humans on Earth who have as much right to see God’s creations (no matter who, what or where we are and no matter how much we own). “Normal” people that do not own any of these things are not allowed on or in these places unless we pay or have permission from the owners- private beaches and having to pay to see places like the Victoria Falls or Table Mountain have been accepted by everyone and has become the norm of our society. We do not challenge the acts of privatisation and capitalism. We simply accept it. Why would one human deprive another human of seeing and experiencing such beautiful things because they do not have money to pay for something that should be free for all? It creates a divide and segregates people in a world that does not need more reason to be separated, but that needs empowerment to enable them to come together.

Privado

This idea of “privacy” has penetrated even deeper into a social setting where the privatisation of schools, hospitals, health care, medical aids and even service delivery (outsourcing of private companies as service providers) are the “better” and more sought after options of our time. I find it so weird and utterly wrong that a few humans get treated better and have the option of obtaining and utilising better services than the majority people who do not have such privilege. We are all equal and have equal rights (or so we are convinced that we are, so why does your economic class determine what kind of rights you get to enjoy and what you get to see and do?).  Again, the major segregation and the indoctrination that some people are better than others, or deserve better than others, remains the source of evil that creates a diversion between people where the opposite is needed so desperately- considering that we are already a segregated world with respect to religion, gender, race, culture, etc.

“…people need to work together- not against each other if we are ever going to make this country the best it can be”

Services like schooling and health care are meant to look after a population- educate them and heal them- ALL of them, and all in an equal sense- not some more than others, nor better than others. Privatisation of schools and hospitals leads to the empowerment and growth of only some, in a country that claims that all their people are equal and have the right to all the same services. What about the rest? This is an inequality that contradicts the promise of the country for its people. We need to empower each other, facilitate each other and share with each other and stop being selfish by depriving our fellow humans.

Doctor

I hope that our generation is the change, that we stop preventing each other to see things that everyone deserves and has the right to see. We need to stop segregating each other and our children by the standard of services we provide and who we provide them to, and that we promote collaboration and teamwork to make equality a reality in every sense of the word. Stop with all the privacy, make non- private services and goods so efficient that they are just as good as private ones, so that everyone can benefit from them. I hope that we teach our kids that the way things are done now is not right, and that people need to work together- not against each other if we are ever going to make this country the best it can be. We need to give and do to the next human what we would like given and done to us. Until we as humans learn to share and start living selflessly, instead of only doing things for personal gain, we can never proclaim to have true equality.

-Nabila Lortan (inspired by Karabo Nemakonde)

Cooperatives as a driver of local economic emancipation in South Africa

A Cooperative is a business model where people unite with a common socio economic interest. The business is democratically owned and controlled and each member has an equal proxy. Every member/worker shares the burden of success or failure therefore the business is generally motivated and driven, hence cooperative businesses have a significantly lower failure rates of around 10% after the first year ,whilst traditional businesses have a failure rate of around 60-80% after the first year.

cooperativesCooperatives are relevant in South African due to the lack of economic ownership by the majority of its people in local communities as well as a dire need to activate a stagnant economy influenced by various global and local challenges that are generally historical.

Cooperatives present a unique economic opportunity therefore the development and professionalism of co-ops should be an apex priority. Cooperatives turn unlikely players or rather individuals isolated in the economy into active participants in the economy.

crowd-2045498_960_720Cooperatives do not only have a great potential for turning profits but are also great in the sense that its social impact in communities is profound. Communities are stabilized. They are able to take responsibility for their own development and ownership of its own economy. The communities benefit due to the local alternatives created as opposed to importing goods or services that could have been locally produced. This then develops the local economy immensely. One such example of this radical impact is sighted in an article in the Yes! Magazine 2013, “for every $1000 spent at a goods co-op $1606 goes to the local economy and for every $1 million in sales 9.3 jobs are created”.

The cooperative business model greatly challenges conventional business models and brings forth a united and democratic business alternative to confront the market, where human capital is prioritised as the most important investment. Cooperatives in essence is the responsible practice of capitalism.

Cooperatives is a critical weapon in the fight against South Africa’s socio economic challenges and a great stimulus of local economic growth and development. This is seen in countries like Uruguay and Cuba respectively where some similar historical challenges are prevalent. Cooperatives have shown that it has all the tools to become global and multinational brands as seen in cooperatives like FC Barcelona, Clover, the Agricole group, Sanlam and Eureko to name a few.

Cooperatives indeed present vast opportunities for South Africans to unite their communities in establishing cooperatives to render services and produce goods they value thus creating a unique and organized local economy where the community benefits from the rewards.

The transformation of the South African economy can never be national before its local.

-Rowan Sampson

Thoughts Of A Girl

Gender Inequality. It takes place in many situations. It is experienced daily throughout the world, from the workplace to the streets, but we fail to notice that it also exists within our very own homes. You see, that’s where it all begins.
gender-memeI was raised in a conservative Indian family so I’ve seen years of gender inequality in action. I clearly remember the day when I was told: “You have to learn how to cook so that you will be able to provide food to your husband because it’s a woman’s duty. Your brother doesn’t have to worry about looking after a household because he’s a guy”. As a feminist those words hit me hard and broke my heart into pieces. I just couldn’t believe that my family had such nonsensical beliefs. After hearing those words; questions arose in my mind. Why are we considered to be inferior? What is wrong with us women? What is it about us that it becomes so natural that a woman’s job is to stay at home and look after the household and men should to go work? Why are men considered to be strong and women weak? Why? Why? Why? I felt like there was something wrong with me. I felt guilty for being me, I started hating myself.

It is not your mother’s duty to look after you. Your mother did not take care of you because it was plainly her duty, she did it out of love.

Hungry OneIn the Indian community, it’s an embarrassment for a girl to not be able to cook, but for a guy, well then it’s perfectly normal. Girls that smoke, drink, get tattoos or do any “disreputable acts” are judged harshly. Guys are given the freedom to act without guilt. Parents force their daughters into arranged marriages at the age of 18 with the intention that the girls don’t get the opportunity to study further or pursue a career. She is never empowered and encouraged to be independent.

 

Let’s just take a step back and think about this, if you believe that it’s a wife’s duty to look after the household and children, you are implying that it is your mother’s duty to look after you. It is not your mother’s duty to look after you. Your mother did not take care of you because it was plainly her duty, she did it out of love. This mentality is holding you back in life. Successful people don’t make it someone else’s duty to look after them. This mentality encourages you to hold others responsible for your life. Don’t let gender stereotypes limit you as a human being. In order to be successful in life you need to be independent and know how to look after yourself.

 

The “labels” that were created for us are the root cause of all this inequality. These labels separate human beings into groups. These labels discourage unity and equality. We separate ourselves by colour (Black, white, brown), by religion (Christian, Hindu, Islam), by gender (Men, women), by wealth (rich, poor). Wars are fuelled by labels and have created so many of the world’s problems. Why can’t we just be humans, just be ourselves? Instead of separating everyone because of their differences, can’t we just accept everyone for who they REALLY are?gender-stereotypes-relationships

 

Parents, if you have a daughter don’t tell her that she needs to learn to look after a household to fulfil her duties as a woman. Tell her that she needs to learn to look after herself and become independent so that when the dark days come around, she is able to rely on no one but herself. Tell her that you are proud of her for the person that she is.

 

Ladies, if you do come from a home with gender inequality, don’t hate yourself, you are probably an amazing person in spite of the challenges you face. Don’t give up on your dreams, there’s hope.  The world has come a long way from women being forced to stay at home. We are increasing the numbers of women in business and leadership positions, but it starts with you. Don’t let what other people think of your life stop you from doing what needs to be done in order for you to be successful. Remove the labels that society has given you. Stand your ground and wake up ready every morning to pursue your dreams. Remember that the only duty that you have is to be yourself.

-Natisha Naran Kara

Focus On: Re-Imagined Learning Centre

The Re-imagined Learning Centre is a school that believes in the traditional African saying: “It takes a community to raise a child”.

re6It was founded by Che’vanni Davids, Cheree Springfield and Nkululeko Phakati in 2016. The initial intention of the founders was to start a home schooling initiative for a group of kids who had a history with conditions such as OCD, ADHD and other anxiety related illnesses. Che’vanni calls it “Institutionalised trauma” from a schooling system that is failing to meet the needs of these children. At the Re-imagined Learning Centre these kids are finally feeling good enough after assimilating the idea of failure from early ages.

This model of schooling finds more lessons in an outdoor environment which allows for more running, screaming, dancing and falling. The environment is less authoritative with fewer rules, no bells and no school uniform. The Re-imagined Learning Centre embraces the idea of a human occupying a space full of stimuli and promotes human interaction on various levels. The serene classroom environment is characterised by many plants, trees and tiny animals.

To the students of the learning centre, it is a place that is full of knowledge with groups of people who gather to share wisdom, creativity and love. -This is the ethos of the Re-Imagined Learning Centre

re1The learning centre has officially been afforded the opportunity to occupy the renowned Troyville Tea Garden. This had previously been the scene for artists from around Africa to share ideas, music and art. The organisation began with a community learning and resource centre that included books, a study area, WiFi and computers. The Centre has expanded and now has the ability to accommodate more kids, teens and adults. Tests and assessments are managed differently. Students are always encouraged to try again, where as previously they may have feared being wrong. The students at the Learning Centre are encouraged to collaborate instead of compete in their learning environment.

There will be a lot of activity at the school with a variety of workshops and events scheduled for this year. The school has plans to host music camps where young individuals have the opportunity to exchange artistry and skills in an intimate space with successful and talented artists from around the world. This Centre has initiated the construction of workshops to teach communities how to begin living more sustainable, healthier and holistic lives. The garden project is an additional strategy to help feed and educate the existing community of Troyville.

The Re-imagined Learning Community echo’s its philosophy in the chosen name. It welcomes people of all ages to ‘Lead and Create’ their own journey.

Firstly, by exploring a stimulating environment that nurtures your development holistically and collaboratively.

Secondly, by promoting innovative learning that recognises the infinite potential of each human being. Attempt to enable people around you to continuously ‘learn, unlearn, and relearn’.

Thirdly, develop your capacity for deep thinking, reflecting, feeling, understanding, sharing, creating and taking on personal responsibility.

On the 4th of March 2017 they plan to share their space with the public through an official launch and fundraiser for The Re-imagined Learning Community “Cabanga uku’sasa”.  There will be a market, live music, round table conversations, dancing, live graffiti and mural art. The organisation believes that our society needs more spaces such as these for young people of the world. This is their effort to help bring unity, humility and love to a world that seems so broken at times.