South Africa commemorates Women’s Month in August as a tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women. The Government of South Africa declared August women’s month and 9 August is celebrated annually as Women’sDay. Generations of women have survived atrocities that some of us would never be able to comprehend, despite our current personal issues we may be facing. Women have come such a long way, from not being able to work, not being able to drive, and just not being allowed the same equality as that of our fellow male counterparts in most aspects of life, however, we have persevered and have come such a long way in terms of our everyday living. At times, it may still not be enough but if we look back at some of the issues other females in past generations have endured, we should be so pleased with our progress. I’m not saying that we should be complacent, just that we should be impressed with our strength and tenacity.
This Women’s Day, I have chosen to highlight some well-known women’s struggles, but also their courage in overcoming their adversities:
Ellen DeGeneres was the only daughter born to her parents who divorced a year after she was born with her mum remarrying. Her brother lived with their biological father and Ellen lived with her mum and stepfather who molested her when she was 15 years old. Despite what happened to her, she chose to fulfill her dream of being a comedian and acting in Hollywood which later enabled her to have her very own daytime talk show which is in its 16thseason and has been renewed until 2020.
Malala Yousafzai was born to a Pashtan family in Pakistan. Her family ran a chain of schools in the country. Inspired by her father’s thoughts and humanitarian work, she started a blog when she was 11, which was then recognised by a BBC journalist. In 2012, she was on her way to write an exam when an assassination attempt on her life by the Taliban, led to her being shot in the head. She survived and went on to becoming the most famous teenager in the world, winning a Nobel peace prize and continuing her activism for education.
Lady Gaga was the eldest daughter born to her Catholic family in New York City. She started playing the piano from the time she was 4 and practised throughout her childhood. She gained early admission to a New York University School of Arts. She was raped at the age of 19, and with the help of doctors, friends and family, she underwent mental and physical therapy. She still to this day suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder, but is able to still sing, act and be as artistic as any human being can possibly be.
Oprah Winfrey was born into poverty to a single teenage mother. She was molested during her early teens and became pregnant at 14. Her son was born prematurely and died at infancy. She went to live with a man, she calls her father and landed a job in radio while still in high school. By 19, she was a co-anchor for the local evening news. Dubbed the queen of media, she was the richest African American of the 20thcentury and North America’s first black multi billionaire. She has also been often called the most influential woman in the world.
Fran Drescher was the youngest daughter of 2 girls born to her Jewish parents in Flushing Queens, New York. She attended University with her soon to be husband, they both dropped out and married each other when she was 21. Armed robbers broke into their apartment, and while one ransacked the apartment, both Fran and her friend were raped by gunpoint. It took her many years to recover, but she did and went on to create the popular sitcom The Nanny with her husband at the time. She also starred in a few other successful movies, wrote 2 popular books and has had her fair share of success.
Baby Halder was born in Kashmir and abandoned by her birth mother when she was 4 years old, when her father’s habitual drinking forced her to leave him. She was raised by an abusive father who married her off at the age of 12, to a man 14 years her senior. She had her first child when she was 13, and two more in quick succession. After her sister was strangled to death by her husband, she started working as a house servant in the neighbourhood. By 25, and after years of abuse, she finally had the courage to escape her husband, with her 3 children by train. Her last employer who was an anthropology professor, took notice of her interest in books as she was dusting and encouraged her to read as well as write her life story. Once she did, he managed to get it published for her which became a best seller and translated into 21 different languages.
Some of us may or may not relate to these women, but all of us will be able to draw strength, admiration and learnings from each of these women in some way, shape or form. Our lives don’t always take the direction we want them to, but all women are born with inner emotional and mental strength that surpasses any physical attribute we could ever have. Being a women and being celebrated for it is something that we should be so proud of and it’s an honour we shouldn’t take lightly. We deserve to be celebrated and we deserve to be recognised for the unimaginable strength and power we all hold as women trying to get through this generation, leaving a legacy behind for our children and their children.