NEW! Student 100 is an exciting opportunity for you to become a change maker. Through committing to give R100 per month you become a partner in helping deserving students selected by AfrA. We started this initiative in June 2018 and have supported 3 students since then. Each student selected another deserving student and paid forward 10% of what they received towards their studies.
June student’s feedback:“Being a student who does not have a bursary and parents who are
paying my studies, I was grateful for the student100 initiative. Apart from my parents paying for my studies, textbooks, stationary and printing of assignments costs extra money, therefor the money received by student100 helped me pay for necessities such as assignment printing and purchasing a relevant textbook. It was a great help.
Paying 10% of the money to a fellow deserving student was a good idea as well as no matter how little the money, a student is always in need.” July student’s feedback: “I was extremely honoured to be one of the recipients of the student100 initiative. Thank you for the support as it helped me to purchase a textbook that I will carry with me for the rest of my career, which I could not afford previously. This initiative inspires me to contribute in the same way when I’m done with my studies and have obtained my degree. I thank you again for your confidence and willingness in providing me with a stepping stone to help me achieve my academic goals.
The 10% recipient is a fellow social work student. She lives in Ocean View and travels to the University of the Western Cape everyday with public transport, which is extremely costly. I chose her, to lessen her transport costs and she appreciated the opportunity dearly.”
How can you help? Join this philanthropic initiative as a partner. To partner you commit to giving a minimum of R100 or multiples of R100 for 12 months. Through this we can reach 12 students per year. Our aim is to have 100 partners for 12 students. Your contribution can be paid into the AfrA account either as a monthly payment or a once off lump sum payment with the reference STUDENT 100. We ask that you contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Our account details are below:
Account Name: AfrA Foundation NPC
Bank Name: Nedbank Limited
Branch Name: Constantia Cape Town
Branch Code: 101109
BIC Code (Swift): NEDSZAJJ
Account no.: 1145211631
Account Type: Current
This video is a prelude to us sharing some of the outcomes of the discussions at Women in Power. We would like to thank Ms. Lolita Johnson, Dr. René English, Ms.Heather Sonn-Pather and Dr. Tracey Naledi for their valuable contributions in this very important discussion on gender equality.
Maybe you want to add your comments to the following questions:
- Is equality in the workplace important?
- What part does my job/work/career play in my purpose in life?
- How do we as women overcome our challenges?
- Does equal right mean you want to be treated like a man?
There is a lot of discussion about re-defining the education system for the future of work. It is important for us to think about what that future holds. But in the midst of all these changes that the world is experiencing, are we able to define our own assignment?
One of the thing that the Bible teaches us about Jesus, is patience. The patience to act in time. The child that was born grew and became strong in spirit. But that patience, was acquired in the deserts till the appointed time. As such, the assignment became possible. Understanding Jesus’ life is an important step in contributing to one’s life so that we become purposeful for the community in which we are.
A few weeks ago, I read a book that I had purchased in 2011. For some reason, it sat idle in my electronic library. None of the pages turned yellow and in all the moves of the past 7 years, I did not lose it. All along, the knowledge in the lines was waiting for me to embrace that fundamental question of purpose. What is my assignment? It is the question that resonated with me as I went through the pages. As I think about all the changes in the world, in the absence of an assignment, one gets distracted. Focus on things that may not provide the required knowledge to deliver on what patience and understanding delivered to Jesus. In my journey as a pupil and a student, it was often about the grades. It was often about the ranking but then it mattered less as I moved into the real world.
But today, I interrogate the differentiation between those two worlds as there was no greater purpose than to get through with good grades. I do not know what it would have been. But I was in the desert and I did not have a compass. I thought I had found my assignment until, I read the pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. I wondered whether there is a place where one no longer pursue God. But I understood that the pursuit needs to be earned. Not with marks but with the crucified life as Tozer describes it. It is the place where we understand the purpose of the cross that we have to carry.
So I invite you to leave the desert by searching for your assignment. As I think back about my time as a pupil then a student, I often wondered if there was a greater purpose to all the things I was learning at school. There was a certain path that I was following because I knew no better. I trusted that my parents knew better. I am grateful for what they did for me. I am yet to achieve the potential they saw in me. My hope is that I will be able to pass on to my own children some of the ingredients that I have used to chart a path for me out of the desert.
In this respect, the book of Daniel provides clues for the kind of assignment that is required for leadership. While in the Den, he did not stand against the Lion. He had surrendered to God. How might we learn from Daniel’s life to define our own assignment?
Ultimately, every child must grow. Every child must become strong in spirit while in the desert till the day when the world, that real world that grown ups speak about, reveals itself. In that moment, it is about fulfilling the assignment. Until it is defined, many roam aimlessly even when the grades and all the other distractions point in the direction of success.
Each news cycle exposes the violence, discrimination, and disrespect against women and girls in our society. The fact that women are so devalued amazes me given the amount of responsibility we carry in this same society. Take any micro-universe where a woman participates and run an experiment. Do a baseline assessment of the functioning and productivity in that micro-universe. Then, remove the woman from the equation and measure the resulting functioning and productivity over different time points. My hypothesis would be that upon removing her, progress will take a turn for the worse. The reason for this outcome is imbalance. Our natural systems were created as balanced and complementary and this is why equality is so important. Women specialize in bringing and holding together the components of systems and will take what is given to us and leverage it to get the maximum output from it. It is a testament to the strength of women that we have been able to do this within the face of extreme inequity. This is not sustainable and inequality is having its toll on humanity causing it to buckle under its weight.
Where we see this clearly is in our health metrics. Even though women and men are living longer, quality of life is suffering. If we look at some recent statistics from 2015 from the UN(https://unstats.un.org/unsd/gender/worldswomen.html):
- Girls are less likely to exercise than boys
- Maternal conditions and HIV/AIDS is the leading causes of death for young women
- Obesity is more prevalent among women than men
- Even though maternal mortality has improved globally, it remains high in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Breast and cervical cancer are the most common cancers affecting women
- Women are more likely to be affected by dementia
Also, the mental health crisis is real and resulting in increases in diagnoses of mental disorders and suicide across age and gender with some of the more significant increases among women. In this tide of empowerment, feminism, and raising our voices, there needs to be more discussion on health and self-care.
Unfortunately, self-care often holds negative connotations with women and conflated with selfishness or is what one does after attending to everything and everyone else. Even though there have been a lot of visible support around this notion of taking care of self, it does not translate in actual practice for many women who have internal guilt about giving too much attention to their needs.
Over the last year as part of a women’s program for which I was involved, I would ask women around me in groups or individually what they wanted. It is a simple question on the surface, but I found that we don’t think about this question often as women. We tend to be in response mode most of the time asking ourselves what does another want. The first step to self-care is asking and answering the question—What do you want? Notice the question is not what do you need. That is intentional. At the heart of being a human being is the gift of desire, of dreaming, of wanting. Asking that question of yourself helps bring you back to the recognition that you are human and should be valued as such. Often the responsibilities of our lives position us as an inhuman means to someone else’s end. Allowing ourselves to want snaps us back to the basic premise that we are human.
To understand your value as human means that the right to health and other key rights are yours to demand and you can hold those in authority accountable to those rights. Holding your value dear changes your thoughts, your decisions, and your actions. It changes what is acceptable and it shapes the boundaries of your life.
If women are to rise above the inequalities they face day in and day out, we must incorporate self-care as essential to our lives and place it on a level as essential as caring for our children, building our career, taking care of our parents, or any other critical area. Self-care runs the gamut and is different for each person. Part of it is voicing concerns, opinions, needs, desires, and more in every context. It means asking for help. It means taking the time for what you want to do. It means not being afraid to be you.
Character or competency? Professionalism or personality? How much bad attitude can you take from someone who delivers the goods? How much poor workmanship can you take from a nice person, before it tips the scales enough for you to end an association with them?
These questions plague the minds of staff, managers, executives and team leaders in the workplace. Production matters, but does it matter at all costs? Do the ends justify the means? Can we be utilitarian in our approach to this? Do we tolerate rude behaviour because we are reaching our targets?
In my view, both competency and character are required. If either is excluded from the make-up of a person, you will have a tough time working alongside them.
Patrick Lencioni, in his book, The Ideal Team Player (2016), narrows down the combination of competency and character to three key virtues… Humble, Hungry and Smart!
He defines Humility as being interested in others more than yourself, and recognising that which is true about yourself, whether it is a strength or a weakness.
He defines Hunger as having a strong work ethic which goes above and beyond the normal requirements of a job, in order to produce results.
Smarts is defined as having the emotional savvy and common sense to understand where others find themselves, and what their needs are.
He places these on a grid as set out below.
I am certain that each of us have work to do on our character and competencies. Where would you fit in on this graph?
Why not set a goal to engage a mentor or read a book that will lead to you a point where you enhance your Hunger, or your Smarts, or your Humility. Working harder on yourself is the key to success!
Here’s to a better you!
Africa’s youth needs to believe in the future of the African continent. There are multiple reasons that may suggest that the Africa we want might be impossible. Previous generations, unlike Africa’s youth, did not have access to technology and real time information, yet they stamped the world with their contribution to human progress.
The opportunities that previous generations created are signposts on the road to transformation. For the Africa we want, challenges are inherent to the required progress. Youth should not be deterred from believing in the future. We have models that we can learn from and emulate.
Many young Africans chose the long road to transformation. Their actions reflected their belief in the future of the African continent. At 21, the Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta, left his homeland and performed a series of extraordinary journeys that spanned nearly three decades that took him as far away as India, China and to the Volga river and south to Tanzania. At 26, Amilcar Cabral founded and led student movements on the belief that the future of Portuguese colonies in Africa could be different. At 32, Mansa Musa became King of the empire of Mali, and is thought to be the richest person of all time. At 35, Abdul Gamel Nasser was a Colonel in the Egyptian army and became president at 38. At 38, Queen Nzinga was sent by her brother to negotiate with the Portuguese.
How many young people refer to their African history and heritage to understand the road less travelled? We have to claim the knowledge of those that preceded us to learn from the opportunities that they created to chart a pathway for human progress. They made a conscious decision to invest in Africa, the continent that heard their first cry. Born on the continent, they chose to change the status quo because they believed in the future of the continent. Our number one priority is to restore our belief in the future of the African continent.
Challenges should not become the landmark of resignation. Simply because the belief in the potential of the African continent must remain the compass that guides us so that everyday we contribute to human progress. How did they come to a common definition of human progress? That was the challenge that many young people faced in different times in history on the African continent. Creativity and unity delivered on the promises as resources that were deemed inexistent or unreachable became a part of the solution as they led others to believe that it was possible.
African youth needs “to see through the fog.” But they take their cues from parents and the adult community that is supposed to provide them with the tools to make informed decision. Some of us are unable to believe in the future hence that level of pollution, injected in their minds, creates a polarised youth. Parents and adults alike need to interrogate their contribution in creating pathways for youth. As a community, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves so that knowledge becomes an inter-generational transfer to open the minds to the world as it was, as it is and as it could be.
One of the pillars of the transformation that ought to clear the pathway to human progress is rooted in agriculture. Yet, African youth deserts rural areas, desert schools and roam the streets of the cities in search for short cuts. We have a joint responsibility in turning youth apathy and disbelief in the future into an engine of transformation. Songhaï, in Benin, works to restore farming as a pathway for young people so that they can create wealth for their families, their countries, and Africa.
Our challenge to overcome, is to balance the reality of the Africa we have with the promise of the Africa we want. In between, there is the hard work of transformation. The reality is that opportunities for transformation abound. To believe in the future requires a long term view on the continent so that each day youth and supporters alike might go further than we ever thought.
Message from the AfrA Team: we felt this to be such an important piece and although intended for the our Intergenerational Woman’s Programme and not the normal blog length we want to share this for all in our blog section.
I was asked to consider the topic of Gender and Leadership recently, particularly in the context of business. What makes this topic interesting is its relevance to the experience of exclusion with the purpose of engendering greater inclusion as an imperative for improved growth prospects for our economy and unlocking the full true potential of our nation.
The exclusion of women is a specific experience rooted in patriarchy and reinforced by social, economic, religious and political norms. To dismantle its constructs requires focused and sustained treatment. The experience of exclusion generally however is similar and we can explore insights for creating inclusion more broadly. I believe that greater inclusion creates opportunities for business through economic growth.
The experience of the professional woman is one riddled with self-doubt which must be overcome. We tend to overthink, over prepare and then still feel slightly deficient. This is not only true for women, it is so for every group or individual that has characteristics other than the main or dominant culture. Simone de Beavoir considered the mother of the modern woman’s movement, described the experience of women in modern society as the oblique of the absolute vertical. There is an acceptable, dominant, reinforced way of being and everything else is – not that. In the modern age and of globalisation it is wealthy, white and male. Everything not that is the oblique and defined in the negative; as not that. This can be extrapolated to any “other”.
The response of business women, most notably in the 1980’s was to dress like men, act like men and try and be like the men they worked with. This was seen as a way to not stick out, to demonstrate a willingness to play by the rules of the game, to be seen as equal and to progress. In the professional context, the feminine was suppressed. It may seem obvious in hindsight but these actions put women at a distinct disadvantage.
Even if she gets the image 100% correct, the cost of that is having to leave aspects of herself behind and limit her full expression in order to achieve a level of acceptability. It also often leads to sacrificing further aspects of the feminine like the desire to have or the responsibility of having a family, a healthy intimate relationship and other aspects we choose that make life rewarding and fulfilling. Indirectly, she is reinforcing the skewed rules and places herself as subject to them without creating the possibility of greater diversity of representation, perspective and outcome. She becomes a cog in the wheel rather than an essential part of the design.
She becomes easily replaceable. The value of what she brings is not honoured and therefore her life choices become an inconvenience. In my earlier career in stockbroking it was common to hear stories of women returning to work after maternity leave to find someone else sitting at their desks, fulfilling their role without communication from the company. These choices were treated as inconvenient and an indication of not being committed to a career.
Emulating the behaviour and personas of acceptable parties in a dominant culture makes it increasingly harder to make your unique contribution the longer you play by these rules of assimilation. This becomes counter-productive because what is actually needed in companies and organisations is diversity of perspective and the complexity that reflects our context and society from which insights can arise. This is how resilience in businesses is built.
What is required is to shift the fundamentals of the place where you find yourself in such a way as to accommodate your uniqueness. This requires competence for the task at hand, understanding of the rules of the game, strength, courage and a series of extraordinary acts.
On the part of women – to stay with the gender example but keeping in mind that the example extends to all “others” – it requires a sober assessment of where you find yourself, your context and what needs to be done to carve an authentic path for yourself and for others and their uniqueness to come behind or after you.
The best example of this experience is growing up with a very competent, effective, driven and certain of himself father who held the best and highest intentions for his children. In the early days of my career he would advise me effectively but as time went by I began to construct my perspective externally, on how he saw the world and with an unhealthy weighting towards how I was being seen and how my actions would be judged. It created a reliance on him or his replacement figure and the views and perspectives of others as the key driver of which course of action I would take. This was not congruent with the desire to create greater independence and to continue to grow. In fact it became stifling and stunting.
I had to determine for myself what my values and convictions are. I had to interpret my context for myself and determine my role in it. Then it became empowering, independent and sustainable. My actions then became infused with my own unique views, based on my values and the ability to carry them through. To act with certainty, to cultivate the ability to follow through and to be fed by the source of one’s own authenticity is the essential empowering act. To take this leap from comfort and perceived certainty, to what is unknown and what must be continually created, is an extraordinary act.
The project of inclusion requires a series of extraordinary acts on the part of those that hold the privilege as well. It takes an extraordinary act to observe one’s privilege; the ease with which you flow within the culture, the deference to your point of view and presence, the way you defer to others like you. To observe it, to become aware is an extraordinary act. To allow spaces for a variety of perspectives to be heard is an extraordinary act. To endorse someone, an idea or concept even when you are not sure of the outcome is an extraordinary act. We tend to become comfortable with how we have always done things and we continue to want to hold onto this way even if it stops making sense. To use one’s privilege to make space for “others” even it represents uncertainty is an extraordinary act.
To consistently sustain the discomfort of changing the status quo, until it becomes the norm knowing that it may threaten your ability to maintain the leadership position is an extraordinary act. The feeling that privilege and power may be lost in this process and that the culture may shift leaving those of privilege in the uncomfortable or in a diminished position is daunting and may damper the necessary willingness to participate. The sobering and anchoring concept has to be that to maintain a culture of exclusion serves to benefit one group over another while standing for the value of inclusion means the inclusion of all. To find commonality with “the other” makes the catalyst integral to the project, able to absorb the lessons and therefore part of the inclusion.
These extraordinary acts serve to build a dynamic culture which reflects the markets in which the company operates and should result in more responsive product and services.
We have to find ways to make our companies and organisations more inclusive and responsive to the diversity or perspectives. It is important to get to know people of diverse backgrounds to get an understanding of what an inclusive economy and society might look like.
We must hold an aspirational yet achievable vision for our country. This allows us to define our context realistically and all that may be possible within it. The vision for our companies and organisations must be located within the vision for our country in order to be responsive to a broad range of opportunities. Our teams will naturally reflect the competencies and diversity required to achieve the vision. Leadership must consistently be represented by those best placed to achieve the vision – to lead the team powerfully and with purpose, to be an example for what is possible and stimulate a generative, dynamic corporate culture and environment of multiple contributions. Systems and processes must be infused by stated and lived values to allow for the full expression of all team members.
I believe that we will not only start to employ a more diverse workforce that will bring the knock-on benefits to their families and communities but we will be alive to many more opportunities presented by our context often in the form of needs that must be fulfilled and that business can address. In dreaming, living, building, struggling and winning together we will finally be building a future that breaks from our past. Our shared experiences will allow us to see ourselves in each other rather than stuck in crude differences that have no basis in reality and that no longer serve us, our society, economy or country.
Innovation does not equate complex technology. Every day, communities across Africa find creative ways to contribute meaningfully to their lives with or without technology. Their challenges become a source of creativity that pushes them to try different approaches with common tools, limited resources and the will to live, and fashion opportunities to transform their lives. The world is a connection of value chains where one needs to carve out a niche.
In Agbobloshie, Ghana, for instance, a circular economy — a continuous process of creating value while limiting impact on the planet — is defying the critics. “The most toxic place on earth”, Agbobloshie, is an urban-scale open-air manufactory. Youthful creativity is turning scraps of metal found in rubbish piles into key components of a manufacturing hub. About 10,000-20,000 youth re-introduce copper wires and still-functional parts of discarded electronic equipment into the economy. From refurbished electronic goods to pots and pans, to name a few.
How might we re-imagine communities so they engage with a purpose to learn? Ultimately, the ability to re-imagine the “Africa we want” through our own culture and vision is a critical step in ensuring that socio-economic transformation does not leave more people behind.
To jumpstart this shift, we need to embark on a joint project; connecting doers and thinkers of our formal and informal economies to the benefit of the communities in which they and extend the value chain. Street traders have skills that students in marketing, logistics, entrepreneurship, and economics, to name a few, need to learn to design and implement policies for the Africa we have. I have always been fascinated by the ability of a group of people to offer different goods and services according to weather, location and events. We have a responsibility to harness their skills to educate, to transform and to thrive through a transformed education system that creates doers, solvers and active participants.
Through this project, doers, traders, manufacturers, and thinkers expand their knowledge of each other while creating a mechanism to design with the “Africa we have”. In a circular economy, we continue to embrace opportunities to transform communities along existing value chains while re-thinking a product’s end life. It is about expanding creative opportunities for youth and women with homegrown solutions.
Homegrown solutions to spark our socio-economic transformation are present on the continent. For instance, architect Diébédo Francis Kéré creating new opportunities to re-imagining African design and architecture with regional materials and Pierre Thiam’s revival of a five-thousand-year-old grain, fonio, to re-engineer life in the Sahara. Yet we have been lured to believe that imported technology and external constructs will resolve all our ills. We need to wake up to the smell of scrap metal turned into a pot, plastic bottles into containers for sobolo (bissap), Johnny Walker bottles for peanut containers, and so on.
Trash sifters in Argentina and South Africa play a critical role in the formal economy by connecting thier informal activities into the recycling value chain. Out of necessity, they create job opportunities for their communities thereby alleviating pressure on the formal economy. This is not unusual. The majority of Africans have participated in the informal economy and those jobs account for 93 per cent of new jobs created. It is big business with limited incentives to formalise. We have informal structures shaping our economies. This is the reality. The challenge is to capture the informality in its essence, then redefine formal economies for the purpose that we have at hand: transforming Africa’s 55 countries.
It is incumbent on many more of us to re-imagine our economies, designing participatory approaches that look beyond the “toxic” label. Innovators in communities are making a real difference in the everyday lives of millions striving to make do with the minimal resources of their communities. We should all be doing the same.
The Africa we have provides the basis for a full-scale implementation of a circular economy. Agbobloshie when fully harnessed will become the centre of the circular economy for electronics and manufacturing. It is possible beyond our current imagination. It is happening. Let’s pool our resources to make it happen for us. We can do it. Let’s make it happen now.
Happy-nomics! Identity and Fulfillment
As this generation grapples with the pursuit of identity and fulfilment, we miss the fact that someone, somewhere has smuggled in a formula into our thinking. We accept that we deserve to be happy! Happiness has been smuggled in! Happiness is now the “true north” on the compass of our lives. And hence, success or failure in life, is now defined by the levels of happiness we feel!
What an utterly dangerous philosophy to live by… or illusion to be under!
Happiness… is based upon what happens. Thus, there will always need to be an external stimulus. What drives the economy of happiness in your life? Consider the following questions… Does money bring happiness? Can poor people be happy? Does being in a relationship bring happiness? Are single people happy? A new car? A new house? A diamond ring? What will satisfy?
With the continuous acceleration of social media, we are pressured into living our lives in images, on display. But, we must only live our best moments in the public eye… we have to show that we are really happy or happier, or really hurting… because those get attention and likes!
Pressurised to post “the daily me”! And the number of likes or emoticons, will guide us into the types of updates we must continue to post. And, we play to the audience, because their approval of us will determine our levels of happiness. Sadly, there comes a point where we sever ourselves from our roots… never mind the cost. I have to be liked, so I post whatever gets me my happiness fix!
I have, over time, realised that happiness is a by-product of what happens. Happiness is a means to an end, never an end in itself. It is not to be pursued, but is found in the pursuit of other goals and challenges.
Here is some older-world wisdom for life…
The Serenity Prayer, by Reinholdt Neibuhr (exerpt)
“Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace…
…So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next”
The Perfect High, by Shel Silverstein, ends with these infamous lines…
“It’s always the same, whether old men or bright-eyed youth;
It’s always easier to sell them some sh#§, than it is to tell them the truth.”
We often find our true selves in struggle and hardship, not in comfort and ease, like Nelson Mandela. Keep walking toward freedom. Live well!