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GLAMOUR Women’s Month Series: Vuyiswa Mutshekwane

The GLAMOUR Women’s Month Series is an ode to women who are following the beat of their drum and doing it successfully.

The authenticity of each and every single woman featured in this Women’s Month Series has been a beautiful reminder to all woman that, YOU ARE ENOUGH. You are here on purpose and for a purpose. That women, as Amanda Dambuza so aptly put it, are ‘heavenly beings that can do it all.’

‘We have an inherent ability to bend but never break,’ adds Busisiwe Thwala. And ‘we have a voice and more importantly, the time has arrived for us to use our voices,’ echoes, Tiffany Barbuzano.

A woman that’s actively using her voice and innate feminine power to be the ‘change she wishes to see in the world’— is CEO of South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners (SAIBPP), Vuyiswa Mutshekwane.

Vuyiswa is a proudly African ‘change-agent’ that is using her media and entrepreneurial skills to drive transformation in the property industry.

The wife, mother, and award-winning entrepreneur holds a BCom in Politics, Philosophy, Economics and a Certificate in Property Development and Investment both from UCT.

Vuyiswa has pursued several entrepreneurial ventures that also includes launching a fashion boutique at 22. She was also head of sales and marketing for African international fashion label KISUA.

‘I believe it's time to move past all the 'girl-power' stuff and start talking about real economic power and influence. I would like to see women unite to build banks, fund women-owned businesses, own property and equity and have a direct impact in influencing government spending towards areas of concern to women,’ she tells GLAMOUR.

Read on as she shares her thoughts on patriarchy, Gender-based violence, imposter syndrome, and how saying "no" without explanation is a form of self-care.

Image credit: Zuzi Seoka - Zunophotography

Which woman has made a positive impact on you in your career/business/life? And what is the one lesson she taught you?

My mother has undoubtedly been the single most influential feminine figure in my life. She has taught me about the value of independence and self-reliance and that there is no man, no job, no business opportunity etc. that is worth sacrificing my values or my peace for. Happiness is about choosing you, every day.

What are the three words that spring to mind when you hear the words, Women's Day/Month?

"Gender based violence" … sadly. ☹

For you, what is the most beautiful thing about being a woman?

Our versatility and ability to do basically anything from giving life to running multi-billion-dollar companies and leading countries. It's really incredible.

In your industry or in general, have you seen much movement in terms of gender equality in the workplace?

Certainly, there has been some progress especially in the middle-senior management strata of several organisations, thanks in part to employment equity legislation. But the change is still very surface level, i.e. the structure and power balance in most companies is still heavily skewed in favour of males.

As a modern African woman—that is a powerhouse in her own right—how do you manoeuvre around expectations of what Africa believes a woman should be, particularly in countries that are rooted in patriarchy like ours?

Firstly, it's important to note that patriarchy as we speak of it today, is in fact un-African. Traditional African societies were historically egalitarian in nature and many women led armies, ruled nations and were active in economic activities and political decision-making.

However, in modern times, African women have the unique challenge of waging a battle on three fronts; a battle against racial discrimination, patriarchy, and culture. In other words, everyone has an opinion of what you should and shouldn't be and how you should and shouldn't act/look/sound like, etc.

You can go mad trying to live up to everyone's expectations or constantly trying to prove your worth. I believe in just bringing my authentic self to the table at all times whether it's in a family setting or a business setting.

There is so much wisdom embedded in our culture but it's also important to recognize that culture is not static. It evolves and we shouldn't be afraid to catalyse that change.

The imposter syndrome is something a number of women confess to battle with or have suffered from. Have you ever had to deal with it? What would you say to another woman reading this about not letting this run one’s life in any way?

We all suffer from this at some point, I think. It's important and healthy to some extent because it's always important to "sense check" oneself but should never be allowed to become debilitating.

Whenever I experience these thoughts, I always remind myself that a reality TV star with zero relevant prior experience or qualifications is now a President of one of the most powerful countries in the world and was chosen over a far more qualified female opponent. That should tell you everything you need to know about the importance of self-belief and confidence.

Image credit: Zuzi Seoka - Zunophotography

Gender Based Violence (GBV) especially women and children abuse has been prevalent in the country for a very long time and there have been various initiatives that speak to this, but the scourge of abuse still continues at a large scale. What are your thoughts/your advice as a solution going forward?

We cannot address the issue of gender-based violence without firstly understanding the actual animal we're dealing with so we can start focusing on prevention vs cure. And secondly, recognizing that GBV is not a woman issue, it is a societal issue that requires an all of society approach to ensure complete eradication.

Campaigns like the call to reinstitute the death penalty, in my opinion, do not do enough to acknowledge the root causes of these crimes and eliminate them before they even happen.

That's what we should be aiming for.

More work needs to be done to devise methods to gather accurate data on; rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, and so forth. We currently don't even have an accurate sense of the scale of the problem.

We also need to focus our attention on the factors that cause perpetrators of these crimes to commit them and the ways in which societal norms and practices reinforce this behaviour. Social behavioural change initiatives should urgently be initiated at a national scale but localized at a community level.

Lastly ease of reporting and prosecuting these crimes needs to be addressed, this could mean legislative reform, special courts for swifter prosecutions as well as innovative reporting methods that facilitate reporting outside of traditional police stations which are often a source of retraumatization.

With Black Lives Matter and black people calling out racism and transformation—what do you think we can teach the next generation about inclusion and representation?

I would like the next generation to know that equality didn't just happen, it was fought for by the many generations before them. It's their responsibility to never become complacent about that but to also ensure that we do not repeat the folly of history ever again.

Why is self-care important to you, and for women in general, as most of us have been raised/conditioned to believe we must put everyone else first before ourselves?

As women, we are naturally very relational and our sense of self and self-worth is defined by our relationships and by how we believe others perceive us in these relationships. Putting others first comes naturally to us as that's how we are raised and "rewarded" over time so the act of self-care is something that has to be practised continuously and consistently.

I believe this starts with practising to say "no" without explanation, practising switching your phone off when you're having me-time, identifying at least one hobby or activity that you can do alone and carving out a couple hours a week to do that (for me it's reading and watching Netflix documentaries while I do my home hair treatments).

Image credit: Zuzi Seoka - Zunophotography

What is the one thing you would like to see done or pushed to commemorate Women’s day/month?

I believe it's time to move past all the 'girl-power' stuff and start talking about real economic power and influence. I would like to see women unite to build banks, fund women-owned businesses, own property and equity, have a direct impact in influencing government spending towards areas of concern to women. The future generation requires a new form of leadership and I'm relying on the many women leaders in our midst to help usher us into that new world.

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