Allow me to tell you a personal story from my childhood.
My Dad used to work for the Transkei government in Mthatha during the apartheid regime. When the homeland of Transkei became part of South Africa post-1994, the Transkei government department underwent restructuring. At this point, my father was the deputy director. My dad was given the option either to relocate to Pretoria to take up a new political role; or opt for early retirement. He chose the latter. So from around 1996, Mama was the one who went to work every morning whilst dad looked after us.
A few years later, Mama was offered an opportunity which required relocating to another town. She would only come home on weekends. Taking the offer made economic sense: it would ease the financial burden and allow my parents to support their children and extended family. More importantly, Mama could do work she was passionate about!
Consequently, Dad became the primary caregiver. I recall how throughout my schooling, all my teachers knew my father well. They recognised his unique signature on my homework slips and expected him at every parent-teacher meeting. Tata attended all my prize-giving ceremonies.
I had a present father – the highlight of my upbringing!
Ntate always reminded me who I am. He made me proud to be a descendant of AmaHlubi nation – Ndingu (I am) MaRhadebe, uBhungane, uMthimkulu, Ndlebentle’zombini, Nasele, Mafuz’ afulele njenge lifu lemvula, mashwaba oshwabadel’ inkomo neempondo zayo – a lineage of mighty warriors and great leaders!
A father has a way of calling out the winner in you, the star in you!
My dad was a TRUE provider. By supporting Mama and allowing her to flourish, he set an example for his children. From my parents I learned that an empowered wife is a reflection of the integrity of her husband. Mama respected Tata deeply. I watched a healthy marriage work under ‘unconventional’ circumstances. They were a team (and so in love!!!). As their children we succeeded because they partnered intentionally for the progress of the family.
My father was one of the most respected men in our community – an advisor and counsellor. From the speeches at his funeral last October, it was clear that his influence had nothing to do with title or salary package; it had everything to do with his big heart.
My father was a man amongst men.
My father was a FEMINIST.
Why am I sharing this?
Am I implying that women should dominate the workplace and men stay home? Not at all! I am highlighting the power which prevails when men and women co-labour for the benefit of the family: doing what is best for the household, what is best for society
When I was 16, I once read a book called “The Purpose-driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?” by Rick Warren. I asked my father what his purpose was. He told me his purpose was to establish the home and take care of his family. Those words will always remain with me.
Of course, there was a period when dad was the main financial provider: let’s not forget he was very intelligent and accomplished. Greatest of all, he was wise. The reality about life is things change constantly ~ seasons change. One parent could suddenly fall ill or get a disability. Certain economic shocks can render certain job roles redundant. Considering the current impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on job losses, we can understand the importance of multiple income sources as a safety net. Moreover, time and time again, particularly in African families, we have witnessed women lose their husbands who were the sole providers. Widows are left behind with little to nothing, and the children suffer.
I have been reflecting upon the significance of commemorating women’s month (August) in South Africa.
Women’s liberation does not diminish the importance of men in our society.
Men do not only exist to be financial providers.
Men are a shield and a source of security.
Men affirm identity and self-worth in their children.
The presence of (good) men brings peace.
Dear men, WE NEED YOU.
My experience has influenced the young woman I am today. I’ll be honest, I have received interesting feedback regarding research I have conducted on gender pay gaps and motherhood penalties. One fellow economist I respect shot down one of my articles saying I have a ‘gender activist’ tone which will undermine my reputation as an economist. I was hurt by this because the goal of my research is to promote solutions for socio-economic development. The conversations around women’s empowerment are not intended to dismiss struggles men face. The women’s liberation movement is not about power dynamics; it’s about progress.
Human beings are equal but different. Men and women are equal but different. We all co-exist to complement each other and add value to society. Each of us contribute a unique essence to the world – at all occupations and leadership levels. The world functions better when different fields and industries promote diversity and inclusion.
When women win; men win.
When women win; society wins.
We NEED MEN to encourage and support GENUINELY freedom for girls and women.
I’ll conclude with this question: Dear men, in what type of society would you like your daughters to grow up?
All thoughts welcome in the comments section below.