“You cannot fake empowerment. If you don’t think you’re up to the task, you will not convince someone else that you’re up to the task,” said Kameshni Pillay, an advocate and member of the Johannesburg Bar, speaking at the First Annual Women in Justice Conference in Midrand.
She explained that attaining the notion of true empowerment starts by empowering yourself through freeing your mind and fighting for your goals.
“Nothing will ever be handed to you; you have to fight for it. All the rights in the world are meaningless if you don’t believe in your self-worth. You must be present and assertive, that is true emancipation.”
She explained that the cause of many women’s low self-esteem is the fact that they have to compete in a male dominated society, particularly in the legal profession.
“No matter how empowered we are, most women have felt marginalised or intimidated by men. We have all struggled and continue to struggle in a male dominated world where only the fittest women survive,” said Pillay.
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However South Africa’s legal system, for instance, has evolved into what it is today due to the Women’s March of 1956 when 20,000 female activists of all races marched to Pretoria to present a petition against the carrying of passes by women to the former Prime Minister JS Strijdom.
It is still noted as one of the largest demonstrations staged in the country’s history to date.
“We come from a tradition of women activists; they fought the struggle on their own terms. They were daring and refused to be intimidated, which allowed us to be here today,” she added.
“This courage displayed by women years ago is what women in the legal sector need to build on, we don’t have to start from scratch but build on to our already existing proud heritage.”
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This means that women need to work together as a collective.
“We must remember that an injury to one is an injury to all of us. There must be solidarity of experience among us. We must understand our struggle and go forward as a collective,” said Pillay.
“The ultimate value of lifting or empowering others is through understanding that one woman’s success is all of our success, we don’t have to compete with one another.”