Networking their way to freedom
Doek on Fleek, which was started in 2016 by Nomthandazo Thandi Mavata is more than just a trending hash tag on social media. Mavata says her childhood dream of making female empowerment a realityis finally bearing fruit.
The 36-year-old accountant, who fondly calls herself ‘uBabesWeDoek’, says the very first Doek on Fleek event was meant to be a once-off. “Doek on Fleek was just a Mother’s Day special theme, where I hosted hundreds of ladies in 2016. It was themed‘doek it like your mother taught you’.
“After seeing the beauty and interest for the event I decided to look into having it monthly. It’s then when it became a passion project for me. I had always beena strongadvocate for empowerment … It saddens me that in our society there’s a notion that women do not want other women to succeed, and I felt compelled to dispel that by proving that women could indeed stand together and support one another.”
Mavata’s initial focus was to provide women from all walks of life with a platform where they could sell products as a means to provide themselves with financial liberation. And, if you have never been privileged to swaai a doek, lessons are on offer at these events.
She says it’s the lessons we learnt from ourmothersbefore us thatwe passdown togenerations born to us.
She has successfully hosted more than 30 events.
Mavata who comes from a background of strong women in Kwazakhele township in Port Elizabeth says her grandmother was her motivation to be financially savvy. “She sold sweets and soon she was buying and selling cloth. She was known in the community and up tothree years ago, before her death, she was somewhat of a money lender in the location.
“I admired that she never had towork for anyoneto make ends meet.”
Doek on Fleek has “now become a powerful movement. In my quest to empower women I havefound thatthere aremany women that share my senti- ments.”
It has since grown to have more than 800 women per event and has spread to provinces around SA.
“I have alsostarted to partner up withladies who wishto host a DoekOn Fleek eventsin their areas, where I come in and assist with capital and humanresources and in this way they are guaranteed to have additional income without risking their own funds.”
As to why she went with the doektheme: “Thehead wrapor doek as we call it holds significant meaning in African culture, even in ancient Egyptian times regal head wraps would was coming in contact with and was using all her savings.
“I asked myself, how can I make the movement sustainable? And that’s when the idea of creating an #EndGirlHate signify royalty. Here when a womanhas herhairina doekit isa wayto showrespect tothose around her.
“So for me, Doek on Fleek was a way to say to women, let usstand together– all racesand tribes – and wear our crowns [doeks] proudly while still showing one another respect. We went with doeks as opposed to African attire because we wanted something that could be inclusive of all women, not only African women.”
Her goal is to unite the women of SA regardless of age, race or creed. But she doesn’t compromise on men who are barred from these gatherings.
LeAnne Dlamini is uplifting, inspiring and empowering women and girls.