Thoughts Of A Young African Feminist– A Mpho Mathaba Exclusive

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When the word ‘feminism’ is spoken, most people get in defense mode or react in disapproval. Feminists are usually perked as angry women who are fighting.

People perceive it as the rise of matriarchy and the ultimate exclusion of men in the society. The big question is – is that what the whole notion is actually about?

Feminism is about driving the equality of both the sexes and is definitely not a belief harbored by women only. True, feminists may come off as angry and maybe we are, at least I know I am, but not in the sense society takes it.

I am full of rage and rightfully so. How can I not be?

See, growing up as a young girl in different communities in Lesotho, I would get compliments on how pretty I am from adults and the experience should have been flattering, it really should have been but it was not.

I despised such moments because they were soon followed by “Uena hee, u tlo tšoaneloa ke hoba ngoetsi eaka, mohats’a ngaka hantle…” and the likes. These haphazard remarks were caging, especially since I had no aspirations of even getting married.

Had I been given a chance to speak, when at a young age I was being branded as a daughter-in-law to some doctor I do not even know, I would have told them all that I would rather chase after being a doctor myself.

I got accustomed to these remarks as a growing teen and began to realize that being angry at the old people who said them to me was not fair – not to me or them.

The reason I came to this conclusion was that it became apparent to me that the African culture designates a female’s worth from the man she gets married to. If this was normal in the olden days, clearly, it will take time to get our grannies to adjust to the idea that girls have dreams and ambitions as big as their male counterparts do.

The biggest struggle for me – as a female growing up in an African country is that although the world is making huge strides in letting girls dream big, it is taking a longer time for the ageing  African people to come to agreeance to this new normal since it goes against a culture they hold so dearly to their hearts.

I am not angry with the old people who said all those to me. I used to get upset to a point of tears. I just could not understand how anyone could think of consistently placing my value to marriage alone.

As a girl growing up in the 21st century, I am very angry at how such statements are normal parts of my reality. I am angry that most young girls draw their sense of self-worth from these statements and are limited from dreaming big because in the context of the African society, marriage is considered the biggest achievement for a girl.

Such minor statements that are the anthem to which I and other girls grow up to are just the tip of the iceberg. This is why many women are this angry. There is a lot to be unlearned about femininity – so my apologies if feminists seem like raging flames to you.

One of my greatest wishes growing up was for the strangers who randomly conversed with me on the streets to encourage me when I blabbered on about my big dreams. Instead, they kept asking me how I would pull that off as a female or if I would have time for my children.

The constant arguments drained me because I felt like people made my femininity a weakness that was unshakable. I grew up having to defend my big dreams while I watched the boy I was in class with be praised. People think it is okay to look onto my dreams and raise their eyebrows because they think that I would be better off as a Stay-At-Home-Mom.

All I want is for people to believe that a random girl from Lesotho like me could become the next big thing. All my idols are women and it makes me wonder if they have also had to defend themselves before members in their communities who thought they were chasing a man’s path.

Success is seen as a ‘man’s path’ and staying at home and taking care of the children is considered ‘a woman’s path.’ Why do people limit women the way they do?

As devastating as it is for me as a feminist growing up in Africa, there have been a few sparks of hope. Things are looking up and women are beginning to take space regardless of age, and that right there is where my hope lies.

I finally realize that my dreams as a young woman are valid – regardless of my gender. I realize that it is okay to be ambitious because all those ambitions are bound to be a reality, regardless of what I was told before.

My only worry right now is how I push to get there, the feminine way. I want to pull my own type of Malala Yousafzai legendary story through my femininity and it almost seems impossible to achieve, almost like a far-fetched dream that I should never have taken up.

As I currently try to navigate my way through the pressures of being great as a woman and pushing through the bars all young women I look up to have set, I lie in one little reassurance, those adults were wrong. I have a superpower too, BEING FEMALE IS MY SUPER-POWER!

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Grace is an uprising youth activist who uses her voice to inspire and inform. She has worked internationally as the Deputy Secretary General with Model UN Impact. This is where she advocated for youth inclusivity in the implementation of the SDGs and further launched projects such as PHAHAMA MOSALI. She is currently the youngest SDGs Ambassador for the internationally renowned Global Citizens Innovative Solutions SDGs Challenge.