Ever since I was a young girl, I have been acutely aware of the profound impact that the women in my life have had on me. It was normal for me to think of women as superheroes. Why? Because women helped raise and shape me into who I am today!
I have known a very strong, opinionated, powerful woman all my life, who is my mother. She was the most successful amongst her siblings (I am defining success according to her generation’s view of it). My mother achieved the highest academic accolades amongst her siblings and subsequently has held high positions throughout her career. She was also the first woman to act as Vice Chancellor for a well-known university in Zimbabwe, the first chairwoman of yet another local university and she currently sits on various boards. What stands out for me personally, is that she achieved so much whilst raising four children and running independent businesses, in parallel. Both her and my father raised us whilst travelling around the world with work, often taking us with them and juggling a million and one other things. It is worth noting that this was also the generation that believed in children being raised by the community.
So when I think about my parents’ friends, all the women in their friendship circles are also highly educated and successful in their careers. One such woman was my mother’s best friend, Dr. Josephine Moyo who is unfortunately now late. She was infact one of my biggest inspirations. This particular woman single-handedly raised three children whilst remaining at the top of her game. Growing up, I remember that every three or four years, I would hear that she has gotten a senior position either at a UN organisation, the International Committee of the Red Cross or similar. She too would travel a lot around the world, however, when she would come back to us, she would just be Aunty Josephine. Taking care of everybody, cooking, entertaining and always making us laugh. What I miss most about her was her ability to just listen; she was so good at simply listening to what I would be going through and offering practical and realistic guidance every step of the way.
Grandmothers. My maternal grandmother was a quiet, soft-spoken individual yet she certainly had a presence. All of her grandkids loved her because whenever you would visit her, she had this way about her that made you feel seen. I was a bit of a tomboy as a young girl and so when the most traditional around me would question why I was always wearing shorts or trousers, she would jump to my defence and tell everyone to leave me be. Grandma always let me enjoy being me by letting me know that it was okay to climb trees and roll down hills if that was what brought me joy. So, I never stopped for anybody because she let me know that I was fine just the way I was. My grandmother on my paternal side was again a rather quiet, religious woman who I only knew for 17 years. I remember her compassion, her kindness, her beautiful smile. Although I did not see her often during her life, those are the memories that have stayed with me throughout mine.
I have an older sister, many female cousins and some of the best female friends, a girl could ask for, who I consider family. When I look around at these women, every one of them has made something of themselves and it is so heart-warming to see who we have each grown up to become.
Today is International Women’s Day, but I chose to give a rundown of the women in my family first. Yes, I am an international woman through and through however, I attribute my solid foundations of who I am to the very women I have just spoken of - the community of strong, independent, purpose-driven, resilient women that I have been blessed to have in my life.
Reflecting on my own travels, I think about the Emirati women I used to work with in Abu Dhabi. Again, strong women who absolutely take no prisoners despite the meek perception of Arab women amongst the male-dominance that persists within their culture. One thing I absolutely admire about these women is their directness in their communication. They do not mince their words, neither do they cower or shy away from challenging the status quo. I witnessed how these women courageously stood firm in what they believed in. Furthermore, during my time as a Corporate Trainer, more and more Emirati women were entering the workforce to join the very best in traditionally male-dominated industries, i.e. the Logistics and Supply Chain industry as well as in Engineering! And these are women that had five,six, or even more children! #unstoppable
Thus, when I think about International Women’s Day, I think about how women are amazing. I think women are the queen chess piece that is not to be undermined. I think women take on the world, every day and do a damn good job of it! I do not think but I know that women are extremely capable of achieving so much for themselves and for those they care about most. Because that is who we are. We are in this world to do our part to leave it a better place than when we found it.
So to the women that stood before I did, to the women that stand with me today, to the women that will be standing long after I will and to the men that do a phenomenal job of standing with women, I salute you!
What does ‘International Women’s Day’ mean to you?
To your success!