I have been thinking about how many of our African women are in business but don’t see it as such.  The “Antie” doing catering for community events and making enough money to feed her extended family.  The “Gogo” watching the kids after school for the neighbours and her own grand children, the seamstress who is the “go to” when beautiful creations are required.  The flower seller, the vegetable hawker. All these informal businesses are still businesses and the women who drive them are still business leaders.  For decades this has been the South Africa I know.  These are the women I admire and respect for their grit and determination.

The challenge we have as women, is partly that this form of entrepreneurship is not recognised for what it is. Entrepreneurship. The women do all of this and still take care of the more traditional duties such as child rearing, running the household, cooking and cleaning.  But at what cost?

Essentially these women find themselves in the double-bind similar to that of the women leaders in business.  They are not recognised for their financial contribution and business prowess that keeps the family from starvation, in fact they are not recognised as business women at all.  Whereas when a male takes to woodworking to supplement income, he is almost instantly recognised for trying to start up a business.

Women often have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts for little to no recognition and when they do step up making additional requests of assistance from their families or maybe refuse to work for free for extended family and friends , they are seen as being mean or “full of it.”

We as women have the collective ability to change this narrative and to recognise our strengths and capabilities for what they are and when we happily applaud the efforts of our sisters and mothers granting them the recognition and support they deserve, we too will rise.  If we want equality, if we want options and alternatives to the scourge of domestic abuse and gender based violence, we will have to start doing this sooner rather than later.

Can you commit to being that woman today? The one who recognises those that went before you and stand beside you?

In the words of Rupi Kaur –“ i stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me, thinking, what can i do to make this mountain taller, so the women after me can see further.”

For more information on the concept of the double-bind, which keeps women in figurative chains , see the interesting infographic below, researched and originally published by www.catalyst.org in August 2018.

(c) Debbie Engelbrecht March 2020 – Debbie is the MD of Staff Training and Executive Director of Operations for Up To Me