Photo by Lesego Chepape


I suppose it’s a mark of an age where we are flooded with so much information that days or months meant to highlight some of the most important issues that the country faces, such as the cause of women’s empowerment are quickly lost in the battle for relevance. It’s most unfair that the challenges women face in South Africa are often a loser in this pursuit of “15 minutes” that has been further fueled by a plethora of social media platforms that have emerged over the past two decades.

It’s why the Mail & Guardian has for many years highlighted the Power of Women and the stories of ordinary women, who are doing extraordinary things in sometimes the most discouraging environments.

The environment for women in this country — especially black women, who remain the most vulnerable and the largest segment of the population — has deteriorated quite significantly over the past decade. It has become all the more critical over the past two years.

We are still in the throes of the after effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. During the immediate turmoil of the pandemic where we were all consigned to our homes, women carried the brunt of that shock to our system. Now they face inflationary pressures as a result of record-high fuel costs, slowing growth and a jobs market that is becoming more insecure by the day as the digitisation of the economy eats into even skilled jobs.

Against this backdrop, the plight of all South Africans is desperate, let alone that of the most vulnerable. The onus is then on all of us to celebrate the women in our society that are managing to forge ahead, in whatever their chosen paths, with little to no support.

Among the women we’ve chosen to highlight this year is the coach of the South African women’s football team that recently conquered the entire continent by winning the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations. Desiree Ellis, was one of the early players for the national team that for most of its life was seen as an appendage to the men’s game — a nice to have. Today, if it’s still seen as such, it is the only successful component of our national footballing body.

With a fraction of the support of the men’s game, the team has managed to overcome all manner of adversity to crown themselves as champions. They faced obstacles that I am certain many women face to reach their goals. To Ellis and her team, we can only applaud you.

The adversity faced by Ellis and her players is shared by many women in this country — it’s only through their perseverance that they begin to change the hearts and minds of men, such as myself, who are ultimately responsible (purposefully or not) for holding back the progression of women in our society.

As I alluded earlier, it’s the responsibility for us in the media and the Mail & Guardian to continue highlighting the success of women in this country and raising their concerns through our growing platforms. In the battle for attention in this age, we can’t afford to let up. Here’s to celebrating these 50 stories of triumph in this edition of Power of Women.

Ron Derby

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