The dialogue was essentially a moderated conversation about gender dynamics in South Africa, and the changing role of women in today’s democracy.
Phindile Dhlamini, of Ubuntu Concepts, welcomed speakers Mapaseka Mokwele, of Kaya FM; Bayta Raff, of Moad Beta; Catherine Constantinides, of Lead SA; and Mbuyiselo Botha, of Sonke Gender Justice.
Each of the speakers first addressed the changing concepts of women in South Africa’s workplaces (and beyond), and then answered questions from the audience in a talk show-style dialogue.
Danielle Melville, Head of Communications and Outreach at the Foundation, urged guests to lead the charge as active citizens and bring gender dynamics back to mainstream discourse.
“Now, 20 years into democracy, all South Africans need to ask what they are doing to own the future,” she said.
“Let us define the legacy that was left to us by those like Nelson Mandela and Maya Angelou.”
Kaya FM presenter Mokwele is a mother, wife, businesswoman and a veritable inspiration to all South Africans. Describing the “colours of women” – from the red, fiery passion of a wife to the pink softness of a mother – Mokwele used colours of the rainbow to highlight characteristics that define who she is.
“Success doesn’t come without problems – and as a woman you will need a network of support as you grow towards achieving your dreams. Maintain relationships with your friends, your family, your partner and your God that will help you through tough times,” she advised.
“How can we as young, ambitious women move past the oppression and chauvinism we face in the workplace?” asked a member of the audience.
“Keep your eye on the ball and remember what it is you are aiming for,” said Mokwele.
“In times of oppression, don’t undermine your dignity. Walk away if you have to.”
Raff runs the Beta project at the Museum of African Design (Moad), an initiative that facilitates collaboration between players in the creative space.
She maintains it is everyday innovation that characterises who we are as Africans and South Africans.
“We are problem-solvers at our core – but many innovations don’t achieve the funding and support required to get them off the ground,” she says.
It is her role to interact with social innovators and provide them with a platform to get funding and get their ideas “out there”.
“We are made to teach and we are astute thinkers – both these skills are our greatness. Be brave, don't be afraid to fail and don't be afraid of success,” she said.
“What do you do when you fail?” asked a member of the audience.
“Every time I thought I had failed, it was a detour that guided me to where I should rather be. My biggest failure, I once thought, was that I didn't become an architect. Today that is my biggest achievement,” said Raff.
Constantinides is a Lead SA executive, social entrepreneur, climate activist, self-confessed Twitter addict and community member.
“Women play down their successes and don't share where they have faced failure,” she said.
“Why as women do we not push ourselves into executive positions?”
We have very progressive legislative frameworks and gender legislation, she said, but we lack the will as women to create that reality.
“It is our role as women to create a life we choose. What are you doing to build the community you live in today? All of us need to be active citizens,” she said.
Botha is a gender advocate at Sonke Gender Justice.
A father of three, Botha believes that total liberation of South Africa is unattainable unless both men and women are liberated.
“My mother always reminded me that our humanity is bound to one another.
"It is up to each one of us to ask, ‘How do I become a servant of liberation?’ and then contribute positively towards freedom in our society,” he said.
Quoting Oliver Tambo, Botha said: “In the oppression of women lies the oppression of men and in the liberation of women lies the liberation of men.”
Botha went on to say: “No other system oppresses men like patriarchy – a system that maintains you are right, when you are not right; a system that says you are tough, when you are not tough.
"Men are also victims of what happened to us yesterday – the men we grew up with were violent, our role models themselves were abandoned – we don't have fathers who affirm us.”
Continue the conversation
In closing, Luvuyo Mandela urged guests and participants to continue the conversation via digital platforms (follow the ongoing conversations on Twitter on #UbuntuSession #DigiDialogue and #SharingUbuntu).
“Thank you for your honesty and keep doing the work that you do, which breathes life into our African solutions,” he said.