THERE IS A SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL FOR WOMEN WHO DON’T HELP OTHER WOMEN.

1142The more I grow, the more I realize that although people are different, we’re very much the same. We speak different languages, have different cultures, religious beliefs, values, and physical traits, yet we all share common hopes and dreams of, growth, love, family, and survival. I took some time out of this busy city and spent a week at the much sedative Eastern Cape, its well known for being home to some of the great thinkers South Africa has ever had (I shall not go there) yet my relationship with the Easter Cape has always been an acrimonious saccharine sort of. As a child I enjoyed hopping on and off the bus between December and January to spend school holidays there, but I couldn’t for the life of me understand how people survived there with no power, no running water etc. (that was then) Nowadays whenever I feel I need some time out, Eastern Cape is always number one on my list.

While I was there I had an opportunity to accompany my darling aunt to emcimbini (social gathering) I couldn’t help but observe something very interesting (well…it was not the first, however I have never paid much attention to it, to a point of asking why it was so).It was not the seating arrangements that bothered me much, but a bunch of young women placed outside some with babies on their backs, while everyone else was inside the house enjoying the revelries. When I enquired I was told it’s because ‘bangamankazana’ (even the word itself is so mortifying and there isn’t one for man – how interesting) in other word’s they cannot be classified as young women, nor elders because:

They are unmarried and have kids

Not old enough to sit with the other unmarried women, who are unmarried but have older boy kids who are now man (having been to the initiation school etc.) nor do they have grand kids. (Hence a different kind of treatment and seating arrangement) I know it sounds complicated, better count your lucky stars you are not from that part of the world, life could be very complicated.

While women in the big cities – corporate world fight a different kind of war in the workplace, the double standard to contend within their efforts to be considered as hirable — as competent, educated, and trustworthy — as men. One might look at the former mentioned women as having a nice break considering that they are not just judged on how they look or their capabilities but rather on maternal statuses, how many kids they have, and umcimbi is an occasional thing ,unlike corporate every day work. Even so I could not help but wonder what happens to the male counterparts I mean after all what does it take for a women to be unmarried and have kids? Surely the kids did not grow out of trees now did they?

But wait a minute – The other women who have been deemed fit enough to enjoy the festivities amongst other human beings (men) did not see anything disconcerting with that arrangement (must have been my city mind always looking for culpabilities I mean…Duh)

Erudite people often say that One’s life goals are not independent thoughts one arrives at through deep introspection; but are rather more an amalgamation of the cultural, family, and other influences that have driven one towards thinking in a particular manner. If this is true what does it mean really?

Does it mean that the treatment of women in society as being inferior is something that in inherent to human beings and there is less we can do about it? But rather accept it as the status quo? If you have children you have been influencing them to think and act in a particular way ever since they were born. There’s nothing wrong with this; it’s the natural order of life. We tell our children that we want to raise them up to be forward thinking individuals; young men and women who objectively think for themselves, treating all humans with respect, helpful towards fellow humans right? Then whose children grow up to be the total opposite of what all parents want?

Why does it seem like women in particular much as they are the victims in some cases they can also be perpetrators? To what should we blame the common stereo type that women are naturally jealous and hate each other?

I remember a while back while working for an American corporation I had an awesome opportunity to be the first women to lead the company’s affinity group in the South African region. I was excited and nervous at the same time, while at the time I didn’t know much about issues that most women were faced with at the work place and in society at large, I welcomed the fortuitous. I took it for granted that I will get the much needed support from all employees especially women, girl or girl! Was I in for a revelation or what?

One time when we were launching a campaign christened ‘taking care of self, business and others’ randomly, I started off by asking a room full of employees just by show of hands who preferred a male to a female boss. As you can imagine almost 90% of the attendees said they preferred male bosses to female bosses, the majority of which being women. Right then Madeleine Albright’s “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Came to mind. (As a succor of cause).

Leading wasn’t an easy task, I had to raise my hand and ask for help (that was before I listened to Sheryl Sandberg’s famous TEDtalk) I just knew giving up was not an option. I had mentors and anti-mentors, Critics and cheerleaders. I would beg senior execs to meet for coffee so I could pick their brains (you know best practice). I would get praises for trying and I would also get: “You can try but I doubt if you would get anywhere.”

There’s criticism—-à “Oh you so terrible at writing, so disorganized and oblique. Friend don’t you think you should stick to crunching the numbers perhaps?

And there is constructive critism—-à “I was confused here because… or “I didn’t think this character’s actions were in line with her motivations because…” or “This sentence was a bit long and convoluted. Is there a way to simplify it?”

“It’s one thing to criticize without being constructive; it’s another to go after someone for something they are unable to change. It’s also best if you focus your feedback on a single specific behavior, as your reactions to multiple behaviors at once can easily be perceived as criticism. The purpose of critiquing someone’s work is to point out the flaws in order to show them where they can improve. But it’s also about encouraging and supporting others in their pursuits.

Oh one would swear ‘leanIn’ is my little bible, there’s a part where Sandberg is talking about mentor and protégée relationship, She says –   “The strongest relationships, spring out of a real and often earned connection felt by both sides.”ß— This for me is the highlight of that chapter. Mentoring shouldn’t be anything less than a relationship, where both learn from each other without glossing over problems, but pointing them out in ways that benefit both parties.

Whether you are a Judge, Public Protector, an Activist or Chartered Marketer, somewhere along the way, you are bound to be have some DERISION handed to you, Eyes rolled at you, insults masked with humor…Best put on your big girl panties baby girl and work hard at perfecting your craft….

While we still here not yet in hell, we shall continue to learn from each other…maintaining our individual selves…

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