This post is part of our current fundraising campaign, which started with a pilgrimage walk to St Winefride’s holy well in Wales.
I am Stella Horgan, artist, Director and team member of Zingela Ulwazi Trust, member of realife and facilitator of transformational processes.
Little did I know that a conversation that took place on a dark green velvet sofa in an RDP House on a hill near the Kruger Park in Acornhoek, Mpumalanga, would change my life. That house, like the people in it, has seasons of trying to repel what might flood it, corrode it, swamp it and infect it with invasive mould. I’m talking about the rainy season, and how the earth the house stands on becomes saturated, swamped with water, because it is built on a wetland.
A wetland, like a patriarchal system, is not a foundation for a house of safety and nourishment to thrive. A wetland needs its own care, recognition and respect, as do human beings, not the imposition of externally defined structure that has nothing to do with its nature.
That conversation, to which I brought all of my experience working with group and individual trauma, my deep listening and my heart that loves this family so much. This family, whose children I have watched grow up, from very little attending the local Orphan and Vulnerable Children Drop-In Centre, to teenagers and adults making their way in he world.
The daughter’s light had always shone bright, and still does. But at the time of that conversation, her light had been smothered. Years of effort to navigate a hostile, impenetrable tertiary education system to get into university had been further debilitated by repeated attacks by men, common in this village, and the surfacing of childhood trauma of several sexual assaults.
That conversation on those enfolding, comfortable velvet couches changed everything. Between us, mother, daughter, me, we decided to find someone to teach the women of the village self defence. We also decided that classes would be preceded by a sharing circle, a confidential space where women could be witnessed in the happenings of their lives.
And so we built something that was powerful, called Sekwanele : Enough is Enough! Each woman has her own extraordinary stories of how this program has woven through her days.
For me, a South African woman, equipped with all I need to navigate the world, education, confidence, agency, work experience in multiple professions, my white skin passport to the bounty of our capitalist system, even I was struck by the potency of Sekwanele. I quickly realised a baseline fact that keeps us women bound : we have outsourced our means to protect ourselves to men. I realise that’s a blanket statement and won’t apply to all women, but as I surveyed the dismal state of relations between genders and the violence that cowes and subjugates us, as my body became stronger, more agile and as I learned to use it as a weapon, I realised the cost of that outsourcing.
Giving that job to men, to protect us, is a way of disowning our very power. It all starts in the body : how we feel in our bodies, how we hold ourselves, own our lives, our posture, facial expression, how we allow or block the flow of energy, which governs our mood, our confidence and sense of competence in the world. The feeling that comes with the empowerment of self defence skill is upright : it is pure dignity, radiant presence and in fact it requires presence, awareness of one’s situation at all times. This presence is what we work for in meditation, and what a gift to embody THAT through these skills.
We have our potent teacher Sensei Xania Swart to thank for her exceptional tuition and guidance. As women we are also part of a greater weaving, the feminine emergence into the play of the world.
I believe each of us women is a facet of the unfathomable, exquisite diamond of the Divine Feminine. Each of us brings something unique, something utterly authentic and irreplicable to the world in this human life, at this cauldron of a time. And we are not alone in this birthing of ourselves. Yes it is uncomfortable, sometimes excruciating and lonely, but as we each claim our dignity, our precious, unique and abundant selves, so we ignite magic in the world. This magic fires up the grid of our collective lives, and the more we can love and respect ourselves, stand in our dignity and abilities, our independence, the brighter we will all shine in our creativity, innovation and happiness. Independence is key to this excavation into ourselves to bring our full, overflowing, abundant selves forward.
Enough is enough with playing small and being competitive with each other! Sekwanele! Enough is enough!!