It’s that time of the year, when South Africans reflect on and celebrate the 20 000 brave women who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest against the pass laws in 1956.
They were led by four women unafraid to challenge the status quo at the time – Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph, Rahima Moosa and Sophia Williams de Bruyn. What a significant day this was, and still is. Lest we forget the powerful struggle song, “Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo” – “You strike a woman, you strike a rock.”
For many, South African women represent power and strength – that’s the beauty of being a woman and it is all the more powerful when women from all walks of life are celebrated regardless of their struggle, their background, their race, their religion or their nationality.
In honour of women in South Africa and around the world on this special day, Flowstars offer some thoughts on women who inspire them and why.
“My name for this year is Iris Apfel – she’s a poster girl for the concept that age is but a number and that your personal style is non-negotiable.” – Caroline Smith
“Despite everything she’s been through, she always does everything with charm and humour, knowing herself and standing up for what she believes in. She’s an activist for gay rights, women’s rights, animal rights and just an awesome person who inspires people around her and motivates them to be better and do better. She’s not only for people, but for animals too, and it’s something I just really relate to. You don’t have to do a lot, but do what you can to make a difference to those around you.” – Elmarie Nel
“One of the women who inspire me is my mother. Seeing her life has taught me about how to balance career and motherhood. I’m constantly taking notes. – Mucha Madavo
“From a young age she’s really been a huge influence in my life. She was one of the first South African female musicians I listened to who really spoke to me. She’s a role model in so many ways and taught me to be myself and speak my mind and to always stand up for what I believe in, the background I came from and to be ‘trots Afrikaans’.” – Elmarie Nel
“My mom is a beautiful woman; a great friend who gave me the gift of life. There is nothing better than the love and care you gave me, mom. All that I am is because of the greatest woman I call ‘mom’. She deserves all the happiness in the world, because she does her best to keep me happy and alive.” – Khanyi Shabalala
Another woman who inspires me is Rosa Parks, a US civil rights leader whose refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus set in motion one of the largest social movements in history. Her life has taught me the importance of standing up for what’s right, even if it sometimes comes at a personal cost.” – Mucha Madavo
“I know it sounds cliché but the number one on the list is my mother, Captain Mmabatho Leemisa, who really lives up to her name as she is a mother to everyone. My house is known as the go-to place when you are in trouble and in need of help, be it legal issues, spiritual guidance or domestic disputes. She always has her arms stretched out ready to mother anyone that crosses her path. I used to be jealous that I shared my mom with so many people, but I now admire her and hope to become half the giver, mother, wife and community builder that she is.
“I admire the great Mmabatho Leemisa for her life principles and how she approaches her life’s journey. She is a firm believer in the saying: ‘When life hands you lemons, bake a lemon meringue pie and enjoy every bite!’ She always sees the light at the end of the tunnel and believes all hardships are there to mould you into a better version of yourself and position you for the next transition in your life.” – Mohau Rhavudzulo
“Alessandra Lariu is co-founder of SheSays, a global movement that supports and advocates for women in marketing. It’s not just because I am a volunteer for this organisation, I have read quite a bit about her and her views and I think that we need to see more women like her. She is super-smart and creative and has many awards under her belt. She talks openly about challenging the gender pay gap in our industry, as well as other hot topics such as pregnancy discrimination.
“And some inspiration closer to home? All my working mom friends. My circle is full of working moms who are crushing it, but don’t know it because all they feel is the daily slog. It’s hard for them to see their achievements, both in the own career successes as well as the wonderful children they raise, when juggling so much every day.” – Sarah-Jane Viljoen
“I admire South Africa’s former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, who I had the great honour to meet at a book launch in Johannesburg a few years ago. To me, she is the epitome of grace, intelligence, kindness and generosity. She is a force for good, while remaining humble, and is everything one could wish for in a leader.” – Libby Peacock
“My mother is a major inspiration in my life because she embodies hard work, perseverance and a bit of flair.” – Moiketsi Thipe
The women around me
“When I look around me I see women who inspire me everywhere. In the office, I’m humbled by the caring women who hold fast-paced jobs, keep families together, are highly skilled and produce excellent work, who look after children and parents, and who look after each other.
“Around me, I also see incredibly strong and brave mothers fighting big battles with kids who also have scary diseases and life-threatening conditions. These women, in among their long hospital stays, often hold down more than one job so they can pay medical bills, don’t sleep for months at a time worrying about how to keep their kids as healthy as possible, and are always the ones who are the most positive people I know and who have time and smiles to greet everyone. It’s humbling to be a woman, and an honour to stand among them.” – Tiffany Turkington-Palmer
“My inspiration comes predominantly from the woman who has been around my whole life – my mother. She’s Irish, she’s feisty, she’s wise, she has a quick sense of humour and she’s 95 in October. Her life has not been easy. She comes from a large family of humble Irish farming stock, but has achieved so much. She owes her longevity to her glass of wine (or two) every evening, her strong Catholic faith and always giving of herself to others. I asked her to share some of her guiding principles. She said: ‘Live one day at a time – don’t try to take on too much at once. Be kind to everyone. Always speak the truth. Look after your health.” – Christine Marot
“Women are human beings, just like men are. There are women who inspire me, and women who do the exact opposite. I’m uninspired by bossy, obnoxious, femme-radicals. I’m uninspired by women who imagine that the world owes them favours simply because they’re women. I’m completely uninspired by women who talk about their diets non-stop: their gluten intolerance, their carb-free eating plans and the fact that they need to lose five kilos ahead of summer.
“I’m inspired by smart, witty, intuitive, strong, sexy, predatory, gentle, compassionate and mensch-like people, men and women alike. People like my friend Linda Shaw who is nothing that’s uninspiring … and everything that is.” – Allison MacDonald