Women from various faiths gathered to share their thoughts on their role as nation-builders at the latest interfaith symposium, hosted by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s Association on Saturday March 30.
The talks all shared the theme of unity among women and the big impact they can make – irrespective of their religion or background.
One of the speakers, Dr Fay Nqoloba, the founder of the Warrior Women International organisation, said when she meets a woman, she does not look at the way she is dressed or what religion she is from.
“I address a person. Our organisation is about breaking any barriers between us – whether it is language, creed, culture or religion. We create these divisions ourselves. A woman has power, influence, we carry life for nine months, we are flowers and we are the encouragers. We have determination and we are stronger in the way we do things. If women could march against pass laws in 1956, without having political affiliations or denominations, what stops us from uniting now? Behind every successful man is a genius woman. Why can’t we do it for one another? We have the hands and there is a lot of brilliance in our brains. We have to be prayerful of one another and foster love and tolerance. Love all and hate no one, because love comes from the creator,” Dr Nqoloba said.
Some of the women also spoke about the challenges they face, having to work in male-dominated environments.
Wendy Philander, another speaker, made it clear that she attended the event as a woman, and not as a Democratic Alliance (DA) representative. Ms Philander is a member of the Western Cape provincial legislative.
“Being in politics for me, is about serving, irrespective of one’s political affiliation. Our caring nature as people, is about reaching out and assisting, and not ask about anyone’s political affiliation before helping. Politics is male-dominated. Some get elected and some get called, and I believe I was called. Women played a big role in the fight against apartheid and I believe there is space for us in the political arena.
“Sometimes as government, we are not inclusive enough, especially when it comes to public participation. Changes are happening, but it is not happening fast enough, and our youth are crying out for help. However, I can feel the love among the women here. I learn from others, so that I can contribute to bettering my community, and in so doing, I become a stronger woman,” Ms Philander said.
Princess Chantal Revell, a representative from the Khoi and San community, said being part of this cause exposed her to so much hate, anger and patriarchy.
“Women are expected not to step in certain areas and I dared to cross this. The Khoi and San people are the first to embrace other nations and religions. History shows how much we connected with others. I have learnt to take my position, because what is going to be left of our nation if we allow men to tear it down. We did not deal with what oppression did – there was no real healing, and this is where women come in. Men don’t show emotion in public, they would much rather share with their wives, for example. Women are healers and nurturers – it comes to us naturally.”
Berry Behr, the chairperson of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, said women are more conscious, more heart-centred, and that they are mothers whether they have given birth to children or not. She encouraged women to build each other up.
“I love gatherings like this one, of women who stand so strong and proud in their identity and in their calling,” Ms Behr said.