Africa Series: Phumeza Mzaidume says women are rewriting Africa’s history
Phumeza is a communications specialist, freelance writer, amateur photographer, lover of – art, sunsets, sunrises and roadtrips. And so being in the communications business is just the perfect to grow and foster some of these passions. Currently part of the Marketing and Communications team at ADT Security, she is tasked with carving their national strategy. Phumeza has worked with Ogilvy and Mather, Jenney Newman Public Relations and many other prestigious companies. Her experience is across technology, consumer, hospitality, financial services and corporate social responsibility. Media relations, writing, digital communications and people development are what she calls her strengths. Today we are in conversation with her about the rise of women entrepreneurship in Africa and how that’s changing the fabric of the African history, economy and society.
Why do you believe in championing women?
I believe it is so important to support each other and to champion other women because we do not see enough of it amongst our social circles and amongst a lot of women who may have public profiles. We need genuine support where we share information, we collaborate more and also cheer each other on! It takes nothing away from me to do all of that. I believe it only encourages other women to do likewise, wholeheartedly, expecting nothing in return. I am fortunate and blessed to have over time, built a strong and inspiring circle of women who are incredible in many ways.
We need to show the younger generation what it is to be a supportive network of strong women. It is one thing to speak about empowerment and then you do the opposite of that. It is crucial that we live what we speak about. It is not about doing this on a large scale and we don’t have to look too far – look at the women closest to you, support them, get to know them, encourage them to pursue their dreams, make those introductions that can help one women grow her business and you can all build that network.
We need to show the younger generation what it is to be a supportive network of strong women.
The conversation amongst women needs to change. It is largely negative, judgemental and fake – and it is important to change that tone and shift it into a more positive and healthy space. We can all benefit from more positivity!
How has the journey been so far?
It has been quite interesting and truly inspirational. The challenging part has been being able to handle the naysayers / the detractors, some were women, who do not believe in supporting other women growth and progress. As difficult as that is to witness, it does not stop me from continuing on my journey, knowing that one day, even they will be the recipient of a word of encouragement or even a boost for their business that will change their attitudes – maybe not in that very moment but in time and they will “pay it forward”. In South Africa we say “Umuntu, ngumuntu, ngabantu” which translated means “a person is a person because of people” – the spirit of ubuntu, of being kind to one another. It is so true! We cannot live in isolation and we cannot be cruel to each other either – because there is what we call Karma.
What would you pick as your key milestones?
Realising through a conversation with a good friend this year that I’m doing what I truly love, although it isn’t my fulltime job, it’s something that has the potential to be – writing is my happy place – and I am consciously making an effort to take it further and using it in a positive way to touch people’s lives. When I was given the opportunity to discover my love for writing, I had no “formal training” in writing after I finished high school and through quite a bit of coaching / mentoring, I had my first byline in 2003. 2016 has been an interesting and amazing year for my writing, I have met really inspiring people and through those interactions and feedback received, I have realised there’s a lot more that I can do and will be doing.
Parts of Africa are known to be very progressive for women, and others, very regressive – how do you put these together for building the continent’s perception?
There needs to be a better understanding of what is happening in each area of the continent, and to also see what women in those areas are doing despite any challenges they face. I choose to not look at it as a case of one particular country not advancing the cause of women whereas another country will do everything it can to support women and grow them.
There are many “pockets” throughout Africa where women are doing incredible things and building their families and communities, and yet they are surrounded by stern disapproval from even their partners and other family members. I look at South Africa, in many instances, we live and work towards the protection and empowerment of young girls and women but there will be areas in the country where the abuse is so rife, and justice, may or may not be meted out. So are we progressive or regressive?
There are many “pockets” throughout Africa where women are doing incredible things and building their families and communities, and yet they are surrounded by stern disapproval from even their partners and other family members.
Africa is such a beautiful continent, with a tumultuous history and so does the rest of the world, but its people are working hard to write their own inspiring story that shows us all how resilient the human spirit is. It is about each country learning the best from each other and introducing those elements to its citizens. As citizens of our countries, our dialogue / conversations with one another need to take on a more constructive and less of a destructive tone. This is one of the ways we can all help our communities move forward, empowering our citizens, especially women and children, through active citizenry and thus changing the perception that is held outside of our respective countries.
Feminism to you is…
Independence; freedom of choice; freedom of expression with no judgement and knowing being an empowered, strong woman is not a bad thing.
Africa is such a beautiful continent, with a tumultuous history and so does the rest of the world, but its people are working hard to write their own inspiring story that shows us all how resilient the human spirit is
What do you believe is common to women of emerging countries?
The women in emerging countries have so much chutzpah (a Hebrew word, loosely translated, as having “audacity”). Their resilience, tenacity and courage – to rise up, no matter what and to continue pushing / working / fighting to have their place in the world, where they are heard and their opinions and thoughts are acknowledged.
What would be your advice be to your younger self?
Be bold and unafraid. Trust your instincts and speak up – let your voice be heard. There is nothing more painful than wanting to have your voice heard but you’re scared and therefore you keep silent – that’s partly how I found my voice in writing. Even as an adult, there are moments I remind myself to speak up. I would tell my younger self to have courage and believe in herself and her dreams – and work towards them even when people don’t understand what that vision is. I would remind her of how amazing she is, yes those moments of self-doubt will come but she must not pay them too much attention – she is on the right path, her path and it will all work out as it should.
Which feminist books would you recommend one must read?
“Women who run with the Wolves” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes; “Lean In” – Sheryl Sandberg and “Americanah” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Why is travelling, especially solo travelling recommended for women?
It is one of the best ways to learn more about yourself and to take that much needed break from your day to day responsibilities. Solo travelling is one of those experiences that allows you to be removed from your comfort zone, it need not be a long trip or far away, it can be what we call a “Sho’t Left” in South Africa – a quick trip to a place that is not too far away but is new to you. Solo trips are great for reconnecting with and remembering yourself when the world gets too loud and demanding, pulling you in different directions. Being in a place on your own, forces you to have those tough conversations with yourself, to take stock of where you are in your life and if needed, make plans to shift your life’s direction to align with your personal truth. It is not a one-time effort, it is an everyday decision that you must make to “Do You!” without neglecting your responsibilities – the travel part just helps you to touch base and keep track of your progress and make what necessary adjustments / changes you need to, as you follow your path in life.