Francisca is a second-year student at Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley.
The Soweto Uprising was 41 years ago, when schoolchildren rose up to challenge the apartheid education system. Is Youth Day relevant today?
Youth Day is indeed relevant today. I believe this because of the current problems we, as youth, are facing – especially within our education system. The youth of 1976 are a constant reminder that we can overcome these challenges. With their dedication and consciousness to know that they deserved more than they were given, to know that sometimes enough is enough and one should take charge. Today, we call #FeesMustFall ‘1976 reloaded’ because we strive to be like them. We strive to overcome the challenges of being marginalised, poor and exposed to a Eurocentric curriculum. Youth Day reminds us of them and their bravery.
Compared to what life was like for your mother as a young woman, what do you think about being a young woman today? How have things changed?
My mother and I always had a difficult relationship due to conflict of interest. My mother, however, strongly believes in culture and I have always questioned her reasoning. She has always had difficulty in understanding why I am a feminist – which is a huge part of my identity. The culture of silence resulted in my mother not having rights. She calls it culture, I call it by its name, which would be oppression. Life for her was filled with silence – which is a virtue for a lot of women her age – and every attempt to question or change the structure has been met with tradition. Being a young woman today, particularly in South Africa, where certain events have made me fear my life as a woman, I maintain strong ideological beliefs. How have things changed? Today, we are questioning manmade norms, we are challenging patriarchy, and questioning why we are being marginalised as women. We are more conscious of what our role in society should be, which is to be equal to men. The only difference between myself and my mother, as a young woman, is that today I am willing to question the power that comes with speaking out – something my mother was not able to do.
How does your age and gender affect you in your studies, work and day-to-day life at home?
I am 20 and a second-year student. My age has affected me because my intellectual growth is undermined. In terms of gender, as a woman who speaks on public platforms, who takes it upon herself to lead, my physical attributes comes across as a disadvantage. A typical leader is seen as someone who has a rusty, loud voice and is typically ‘manly’. However, being soft-spoken and not as physically muscular has affected me in such a way that my leadership skills are questioned. But this does not affect my capabilities.
Do you feel like it’s our time as young women? Or are we still waiting?
I strongly feel and believe that, yes, it’s our time as young women. The powerful gift of using our voices against injustice is something previous generations of women were not able to do. The silence of previous women should not be forced upon us young women of today – we do not need to inherit the silence, we do not need to inherit being margnalised. Although we are all intersectional, knowledge of womanhood should be shared, given when asked and should have the ability to make other women grow. Like Thomas Sankara once said, ‘Comrades, there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women.’ It is our time.