Net­work­ing their way to free­dom

Sunday World - - Viewpoint - Women to­day are mak­ing their voices heard through unique life­style-re­lated events. These net­work­ing ses­sions are more than an op­por­tu­nity to party but to con­sci­en­tise others about per­ti­nent causes dear to them, writesSo­maya Stock­en­stroom.

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.

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