Wellington Women of Year: Winnie Rust Awards
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen and distinguished guests.
Thank you for having me here this morning, it is indeed a privilege.
First and foremost, in light of today being the second last day in which we have been celebrating and commemorating Women’s Month. I wish to pay tribute to all our fierce and wonderful women here.
It is my belief that the struggle for gender-equality and the empowerment of women should continue beyond Women’s Month, in an ideal world, the celebration and the recognition of our role in not only South Africa but the world at large, ought to be part of our daily lives as a society, and not just an August topic.
Winnie Rust reminds us of the role that women play in South African society. Rust was born and grew up in Wellington and her father was a rector at Huguenot College.
For roughly 20 years she brought so much for the people of this community. Most notably, people remember her for being a gracious and a beautiful person, well-read and a great story teller.
Her first novel, Martha – A story about the black countess of Stamford, was shortlisted for the Jan Rabie/Rapport prize in 2005.
The role of woman in society ought NOT to be taken for granted. It is our women who must be commended for always stepping up to the plate during troubled times, restoring faith and hope in humanity at large.
Twenty-five years into democracy we can confidently say that our nation is indeed a much better place; however more still needs to be done. Government, for its part, should not rest well, until all women are afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
Like Winne Rust and the foundation named after her, we all need to take collective responsibility when we leave here today. We ought to live our lives in such a way that encourages those around us to carry on with the positive work that Winnie was doing and to keep on striving, against the odds and despite disheartening crime statistics, to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and violence in our region by investing in poorly-resourced people in our community.
My one hope today is that I can be a source of some inspiration. My address here today, is mainly dedicated to anybody who has ever felt inferior or felt disadvantaged, felt cheated by life, this is an address dedicated to women, who despite the severe injustices faced by gender, remain the bedrock of South African society.
As human beings, men and women are very much alike. Our personal understanding of success and failure are very subjective in the way that it relates to our very own experiences in life.
We our it to ourselves, we our it to future generations to stand up tall, to fight all forms of adversity, so that life will indeed be better for the generations that will come after us.
The sooner that we realise and come to terms with the fact, that no one is coming to save us… the sooner we can get on with living a life we value. Since the beginning of time, as women, we have been systematically oppressed in the way that we have been geared to believe that we are lesser human beings than our male counterparts… this is not the case… Although we cannot change the past… We can… and we must... take a firm stand to change this misconceived perception. If not today, then when…
We need to take it upon ourselves, to be the generation of women… that decides to that responsibility for our lives… We need to be the generation of women, that emancipates ourselves, and in doing so, emancipating our daughter and their daughters that as women we are equally capable, if not more capable than our male counter parts.
It breaks my heart to share what I’m going to share with you now, and I truly hope that you are as horrified as I was when I learned this statistic… At a celebration of 20 years since the introduction of the Domestic Violence Act. According to Bain South Africa Gender Mainstreaming conducted in 2017, 58% of respondents agree or strongly agree that their communities believe in equal opportunities for women and men.
It is rather unfortunate, that despite changing social norms, many women still feel that they're going against the grain.
Once again, we our it to ourselves to change this horrible picture, although we might find ourselves failing in doing so… We should not let the fear of failure, blind us from striving to achieve living in a society in which there is in fact justice.
Personally, I believe that failure is just life trying to move us in another direction. Now when you’re down there in the hole, it would appear to look like failure.
Furthermore, and when you’re down in the hole when that moment comes, because it is inevitable that, that moment will come. Not once, but many times in our lifetime. Remember, it’s really okay to feel bad for a little while. However, it is not okay for us to drown in our sadness.
Give yourself time to grieve what you think you may have lost or are losing but then here’s the key, we must learn from every mistake because every experience, encounter, and particularly your mistakes are there to teach you and force you into being more who you are… more of who you truly are, not more of what other people have defined as who they think you are.
But the challenge of life I have found is to build a character that doesn’t simply tell a story about what you want to be but it’s a story about who you want to be. It’s a résumé that doesn’t just tell a story about what you want to accomplish but why. A story that’s not just a collection of titles and positions but a story that’s really about your purpose. Because when you inevitably stumble and find yourself stuck in a hole that is the story that will get you out. What is your true calling? What is your dharma? What is your purpose?