Cape Town

Practical tips for women helping women (in a real way)

Women helping Women is a simple concept in theory that can result in big, positive change. As many theories go, however, it is easier said than done to introduce this practically and consciously in our everyday lives. As women, where do we start and how can we provide a leg up and support to the women around us? That was the discussion focus of the virtual panel of dynamic women hosted by SheSays Cape Town on the 25th of August.

The panel consisted of four women who understand exactly what it means to support women in a real way: Baratang Miya CEO & Founder of GirlHype Women Who Code, Leana de Beer CEO & Founder of Feenix & WaFunda, Nicole Banister International Emcee, Content Creator & Founder of My Basketball Team, and Mphothe Elizabeth Mokwena, Marketing Director at Unilever, all moderated by Pride Maunatlala, CCO at LifeCheq & Independent Strategy Advisor.

The panel first addressed that infamous term, ‘empowerment’. What does it mean to ‘empower a woman’? Empowerment cannot live in isolation from equality, explains Elizabeth. “Empowerment, as a word, sounds like someone is giving you your power. Equality means understanding that every woman has power just by virtue of being born.

“You have power, the key is knowing how to harness and use it in all the different spaces you are in – and when you see someone else impeding on the ability of another woman to use her power, speaking out about it.”

And how is that power taken away? In an impassioned discussion, Baratang explains that women are born into a patriarchal society, and opportunities (or lack thereof) depend on various circumstances, not limited to their gender. From early on women must conform to various expectations simply because they are born female; roles and expectations that have been passed down from one generation to the next, placing women at a disadvantage in their communities. To move away from the inequalities and injustices brought about because of these binary and often outdated ways of living, there is a lot of unlearning and rethinking that must happen.

And that, Nicole says, needs to start by considering your relationships, “not only with your romantic partner, but your friends, your mentors, with your family, because they contribute to the success of women and this empowerment of women that we so hope for an strive for.”

Women helping women is not only the skeleton of some much-needed support structures, but also necessary for the future and success of our society.

Here are some practical tips when it comes to helping the women around you as discussed by the panel:

Look inwards.

Leana explained that to help others you must first focus your attention inwards. “If I look at myself and expect consistent excellence, that is a very big ask, and I am going to fail. If I can stop expecting consistent excellence from myself, I won’t expect the same from other people. So, I must start there and ask, ‘How can I operate with grace for myself so that I can give grace to other people, and how can I operate with kindness to give kindness?’. Only once we have asked ourselves these questions and started introducing these daily actions into our lives are we able to move forward on this journey of equality.”

Remove expectations.

“We can re-empower women by freeing each other of our own weight of expectations and judgments. Sometimes we don’t see each other as supportive structures because we can be a very judgmental being – and a lot of this comes from our own insecurities in these spaces. We keep expecting very binary expression of womanhood. We need to ask ourselves: are we developing our own awareness and compassion so that we can free women to be this expectation of something?”, says Elizabeth.

Check your privilege.

“No one wants to take the responsibility of their privilege,” says Baratang, and “changing mindsets can be very challenging.” Leana explains that it requires challenging and questioning your daily thoughts: “If I feel as exhausted as I do, imagine what a woman of colour might be feeling with the added challenges she needs to face each day?”

Mentor, share and support.

Mentoring is one of the most effective ways to share knowledge, inspire and uplift the women around you. Baratang says, “It takes women telling other women that it is doable. The scale is going to change when women know what the opportunities are and how to access them.”

As women in the workspace, it is also important not only to support other women from the sidelines but to publicly give credit where it is due, and if or when we disagree to do so without dismissing, undermining, or disrespecting one another.

Support women-owned businesses.

Elizabeth touched on the fact that money most female small business owners make often goes straight back to her family. By supporting female business, we are making big societal changes, too.

Nicole explained that before she buys something new, she asks herself if the brand is female-owned or owned by persons of colour before purchasing. Some businesses shared with the audience that you can support are: Cakes/pastries: Just Baked & Lollipop Cake; Clothes: Rashame & Mapula Swim; Bags/jewellery: Jungli, Sishwati Marie, One of Each, Pichulik; Yoga: Holding Space; Hair/skincare: Kafui NaturalsRenascent Health & Lotus Beauty.

Where we spend our money must translate in our working environments, too, mentions Elizabeth. Before employing a new supplier to fulfill a task, we must ask questions like “does this business practice and demonstrate equality?” and if not, is there another business that could be brought on instead?

Give back to those who have no voice at all. 

Baratang spoke to the fact that we must not forget that while we are moving forward, we must continually look back to help the girls and women who might not have the guidance or support they need to grow into women who have voices. It takes reaching out, teaching, and sharing knowledge with the women of the future.

Pride closed the discussion by summarising, “Don’t underestimate the power of small daily steps to get change to happen.” Every step we take in the direction of empowerment and equality has impact and we must all do what we can to make a difference.

To watch the recorded panel discussion, head over here.

Back to news