Conversations with my mother

Wadeisor Rukato (22)

“My mom would never allow us to go to sleep over at a friend’s place all willy nilly. She would always ask ,what do they have that you don’t have in your own home” – Wadeisor

I strongly believe that the types of relationships we have with our parents mold us into the kind of people we essentially turn into. It makes perfect sense that the lessons learnt from our parents are strong foundations for the values we choose to carry through into our adult lives.

I’d also like to believe that as women the lessons we learnt from our mothers carry strong weight with regards to the decisions we make in life,whether it be in love, career and even our perceptions about basic humanity.

So it is no surprise to me, that Wadeisor’s personal relationship with her mother, has influenced a lot of her choices as a young adult. I hope her relationship with her mother inspires more of us to share our experiences about our mother’s and essentially learn to evolve into mindful women and mothers.  Her story is as follows,

“My mother grew up in an area called Ndanga from a village called Kwacharuka in Zimbabwe , where she was the youngest of six children. They lived a basic village life, they would sometimes get water from the river, cook on a fire,and sometimes wash in the river.

My mother lived through the Zimbabwean civil war ,which was fought in the 1970’s a lot of the war was fought in the rural areas because the rebels were from the rural area, she was thankfully raised by a strong mother who moved her to Bulawayo at eleven to live with my uncle as she felt it was not ideal for a young girl to grow up in a rural area.This is where she had her first interaction with white people at an Urban school , she worked very hard as she cooked and cleaned for my uncle ,went to school and read a lot.

She than got married to my father and had my sister at a young age, and given times we live in now the chances of  a woman getting pregnant at twenty three and married to still be successful are a bit limited. My parents than moved to South Africa ,in Hillbrow (1995 Hillbrow) with two kids, she still carried on with her education doing her masters and still worked by the age of thirty after giving birth to my brother she had obtained her PHD .

Even through the difficulties of being in a foreign country she worked hard and as a result traveled a lot while we were still young. She understood that in order for her children to have a good education, sacrifices had to made.

A lot of the time we would claim we were raised in a broken family because on the one hand our parents were divorced and on the other our mother wasn’t around. However she would remind us that we have an ideal family in the sense that we had food, we were going to school and we were happy.
This taught me to mentally challenge conventions ,and to learn to create my own standards of happiness, success and stability.

When I was thirteen she moved the family to Sandton, we were finally living in the surburbs and through us moving she consistently promoted the mentally of progress. We’ve perceived her as strict , for instance my mom would never allow us to go to sleepovers all willy nilly ,she would always ask ,”what do they have that you don’t have in your own home?,why don’t you invite them over?”
I think her convictions had to do with her experiences with various relationships but also that the best people that you would want around you are those one can allow into their spaces openly. Being satisfied with what you have and letting people share in that. Buying popcorn was also not a norm when we went to the movies ,we had to eat before we left the house. I think later I learned that the lesson was to be fine with whatever I have, you don’t always need to do what everyone else is doing and experiences aren’t always ruined if they don’t go the way you imagined them.

My mom inspired the type of environment I wanted to work in, she worked in the policy development environment and she’s recently went back to Zim to contribute in terms of business and entrepreneurship, unfortunately its always assumed that a women is success in the policy development field because she’s sleeping with someone ,that she used “unconventional” ways. I’ve watched her in spaces where she was the only woman amongst men and she stood her ground, she speaks like she Is anyone , like someone who deserves to be at the table.

I was very lucky to have the kind of mother I could talk to in terms of sex, I found that when I had stopped trying to hide the fact that I wanted to have sex ,and started to have conversations with my mother I came out more informed, equipped and empowered. I believe where possible, we really need to understand that out mothers have experienced a lot of the things that we have and we need to enable them to take on the challenges of talking about topics people regard as sensitive such as sex.

I’m a lot more open minded in terms of people I find attractive from both sexes , I don’t necessarily consider the physical as sexy, I suppose when I was thirteen that was my perspective but for me now ,sexy is an acquired confidence ,knowing and accepting you have the body that you have. I also find intelligence, respect, curiosity , and intimate conversations to be very attractive. For me sexy is defined by those intimate conversations, someone who just gets the blood boiling.

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I am not my hair!

The Skin series

Lerato Ratsiu (22)

” Most girls I’ve perceived as similar to me, come across as competitive and this is one of the many reasons friendships don’t last” – Lerato

There seems to be a silent war between women who choose to have weaves and women with natural hair (unprocessed hair). It can either go two ways, women with weaves can be classified as classy, beautiful and well mannered, however they can also be classified as fake, overwhelming and not as intellectually stimulating as their “soul sisters”.

I think it’s important that I mention that Lerato is a hardworking young women who not only pays her own bills but also buys her own hair, even so she says women often perceive her as a gold digger, and that she often attracts older men because of the way she looks. “Guys my age often avoid girls like me, they avoid women who explicitly state that they like shopping, I do fine wine and champagne”

We both agree that there’s a huge division between women who wear fake hair and women who have natural hair “women with natural hair feel the others are hiding behind the hair and we are not proud of our natural beauty”. Lerato explains that she disagrees with that notion because we don’t have to look and dress the same, she says she wears weaves because she personally loves the versatility of going from short to long,black to blonde, sometimes she wants big curls and other days she want body waves.

“Wearing weaves doesn’t mean we hate our heritage or have low self esteem, I believe women should wear their hair the way they feel the most comfortable, because what truly matters  is how you feel about yourself.”

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May grace,love and peace be upon you.

Cashmere mafia

The body series

Junia Sebego (21)

” Why do we always need to compare one another so we can grow” – Junia

Social media can be very intimidating, from the women’s perspective we’re bombarded with pictures on Instagram of women who post “#ootd’s” and “#fashionfridays”, and it often leaves me with the perception that in order to proof that you’re socially progressive, fashionable and economically liberated you need to maintain a particular trend or rather caliber of pictures on your Instagram page.

I was curious to find out Junia’s opinion about this fascination we have on material beauty, of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with dressing up and looking good, however why do we feel the need to almost proof to people that we look as good as we say we do.  Nonetheless my conversation with Junia took a different turn, as to discussing what is socially appropriate for women to wear in public.

“It’s ok if I want to wear a suit to work, than wear something sexy to the club later, just because I’m a lawyer I shouldn’t be given labels on how I’m supposed to dress”, she further explains how normal it is for people to label you as easy because of a perception your clothing may give.

I asked what her thoughts were on the “free the nipple” initiative, encouraging women to walk freely with our nipples showing to erase sexist perceptions men may have when they see a half naked women. “We need to stop comparing ourselves to men, men and women are different , why do we always need to compare ourselves to them so we can grow”.

So it seems that we are we stuck in a tug of war between trying to find comfort in who we choose to be, irrespective of what society thinks were supposed to look like and the distance that we are slowly building by saying “I don’t need anyone’s approval to tell me I’m fabulous” and posting consecutive #ootd’s on Instagram. I think we are all guilty of a bit of vanity, however to what cost? I sometimes imagine the response my daughter will give me when I tell her  to believe me when I tell her  she’s beautiful, “Kodwa Ma, did you believe it when you heard it?” In essence Junia believes we that being true to what makes you comfortable is true beauty, whoever is watching will learn about what confidence means.

May love, grace and peace be with you.

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The marriage between religion and culture.

The heart series

Busisiwe Kamolane (22)

“I believe there were many other stories of powerful women in the bible that were left untold”- Busisiwe

I grew up in a very cultural household, yes growing up I went to church every Sunday with my mother however it had no meaning for me. Half of the time I was asleep during the service, and not until I left home for varsity did I start to develop my own Christian journey.

It hasn’t been easy more specifically because of my family and beliefs I grew up with,being told to let go of everything my parents had taught me. It lead me to many questions, about whether religion and culture co-exist? And weather they have both been contributors to many social ills that largely effect women today.

I often speak to Busisiwe about spirituality and guidance in my Christian path, and we both agree that religion and culture have a few similarities. “The majority of bible stories tell of great prophets, leaders being men but you only  find a few stories of powerful women. More than anything prayerful women like Hanna who prayed to God for a child”. Busi continues to explain that women were warriors in prayer, they had an intense desire for God.

She also concurs that culture is also catalyst to women’s oppression. “Back in the day men were everything and women were treated as children , women didn’t even have contractual capacity”. And in many ways we have accepted a lot of cultural practices without questioning them.

Such as the concept of lobola, Busi questions why lobola isn’t paid for men, because to us it sounds bizarre that a man’s capacity to be scrutized for their ability to raise children, how educated he is and whether he is a virgin or not would be questioned.

It is quite evident that  because of the similarities, religion and culture can co-exist, however as Busi says ” In Christianity and culture we believe that the man is the leader of the household, almost the priest of the home. However I don’t think religion and culture can co-exist without conflict”. My conversation with Busi has made me realize that not only is it difficult to separate myself my religion and culture, but that it is also difficult to clearly determine what my role is in both spectrums.

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May love, peace and grace be upon you.

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The boy who cried love

The relationship series

Nelisiwe Tshabangu (22)

“His a gentleman when it suits him, if I behave in a particular way, his a gentlemen” – Nelisiwe

Love is always such a demanding feeling, and time and time again when people try to fight it the reality is we all want someone to love. I think at some point when things don’t go as expected ,you may start to realize that maybe what you thought was love, was nothing to begin with.

Maybe he loved me,did he say he does? Is this something he does often?,wait do I even know what love is?! My conversation with Nelisiwe gave me a different view of how we as girls may be sabotaging ourselves by staying in relationships that clearly show no direction of success.

“I don’t think guys cried love with me,I have cried love with myself” Nelisiwe expresses that sometimes she would think maybe because he may buy her flowers,and cuddles with her ,he loves her. Not necessarily because His just comfortable and that’s what he wants to do at the time.

Her view is that the problem starts with society, we have friends who are in specific relationships at a specific age and you think “I also want something like that for myself”. However we begin to modify ourselves because if I change myself, he’d modify himself too.

“I have misread the situation, I didn’t believe him when he said he’s a jerk” , this is true it’s as if your waiting for slap on the head as confirmation and as the saying goes when someone shows you who they are for the first time,believe them.

I personally believe that we fall in love with the potential of who someone can turn into ,and unfortunately never realise the reality of who the person is right now. As old- fashioned as this may sound , I do believe that most of the time it’s good to sit back, evaluate who you are, find content so you can have the courage to love ,hurt and love again.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes by Elizabeth Gilbert

“I’ve fallen in love more times than I care to count with the highest potential of a man, rather than with the man himself, and I’ve hung onto the relationship for a long time (sometimes far too long) waiting for the man to ascend to his own greatness. Many times in romance, I’ve been a victim of my own optimism”

May love,peace and grace be upon you.

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Educate!

“You are beautiful, but learn to work, for you cannot eat your beauty” – Congolese Proverb

The quote above is one of my favourite African proverbs, it always shocks me out of my ‘pretty girl’ syndrome. The world has evolved, and in turn women are more ambitious, driven and focus a bit more attention on self-serving than ever before.

With that said, in 2013 only 28% of women in South Africa were in management positions, and my general consensus is that we are simply not opening up a variety of career options to young women. The option of TVet colleges (formly known as FET colleges) has not been fully embraced, and maybe this is because we don’t hear of a lot of success stories about women who went to TVet colleges.

There is such a variety of options for young girls to choose from, we are no longer tied to traditional careers that are just for “women”. I challenge you to be a source of information for girls in your community, especially those in matric in need of all the information you can give, about Design, engineering, teaching, medicine, plumbing the list is endless.

If we do what we love, and love what we do. It will be so much easier to motivate other girls into pursing their dreams, no matter how difficult it may seem.

Love, grace and peace be upon you.

My relationship with my father

It was Father’s day this past Sunday, and I was feeling a bit nostalgic. Missing the father I had lost, wishing I could also celebrate Father’s day with him.

Social media doesn’t make it any better, the pictures and messages remind you of your difference. However something else struck my attention on father’s day, a Facebook status that read “happy father’s day to my mom-who has been both my mother and father to me”

This statement bothered me a bit, I’ve always maintained and probably said it to my mom in conversation that a mother can never be a father. The statement almost glorifys single mother hood, as if our mothers have always dreamt of successfully raising children by themselves.

This made me wonder, if the relationships we have (or lack there of) with our fathers have an impact on the way we interact with men. The men we choose to date or marry, the men we work with, the men who we perceive as friends. Do we go around trying to fill voids that our fathers were suppose to fill?

I had an amazing relationship with my father, when I was eleven he was already telling me about sex, boys and relationships. He taught me how to drive when I was twelve (two months before he passed away), and if there’s anything I will never forget is that I can’t remember a day when my father told me I was beautiful. I remember an incident where I walked towards wearing a new dress, I had a test in my hand for him to sign for school. Now the eight year old me expected him to compliment my beautiful dress, instead he looked at my test paper and said “you are so smart, I wonder who you take after”.

I did not understand than, that he was teaching me to value more than just my beauty, because that’s what the world will see first therefore I need to remember I am more than just that.  He contributed a lot to the person I am today, how I think, my ambitions and I will always be thankful for that because had I not had a relationship with him, I would probably have the perception that my mother is both mother and father to me.

I think as women we need to evaluate ourselves, if you are able to heal and forgive, you’re saving yourself from a domino effect of mistakes that would have fed into your children’s lives one day. No matter how much we deny it, the relationships we have with our fathers shape our perceptions. Hopefully as time goes by we will learn to nurture those relationships so we can learn from them.

Grace, love and peace be upon you.

(This article is a dedication to my late father Vusi’zinsizwa Churchill Msimang – my legend thank you for speaking life into my future, I will never forget you. And to my uncle Tebogo Kwape – for always being there as a second father. Your support and love overwhelms me.)