Flexiroam Africa Features Fearless Women Leaders in South Africa

On 9 August 1956, over 20 000 brave women of all races and ages from every corner of South Africa marched together towards the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest against the pass laws that proposed even further restrictions on the movements of women. The march was a resounding success and South Africa recognised the bravery of these women who risked arrest, detention and banning by declaring 9 August National Women’s Day.

In recognition of this important day and to celebrate National Women’s Month, Flexiroam Africa is proud to feature 2 inspiring South African women each week in our August blog series.

We asked incredible women leaders some thought-provoking questions around women and leadership. Karmilla Pillay-Siokos, operations director at SlutWalk Johannesburg and Flexiroam Africa’s very own General Manager, Jackie Aylett.

 

Karmilla Pillay- Siokos

Growing up in an Indian township during the apartheid era, gave Karmilla the drive to be a positive influence on those who suffer at the hands of others. Arming herself with invaluable life experience, a BA degree majoring in Psychology and a Post Graduate Certificate in Education, she could take her place as a feminist, mother, healer, activist, educator

and warrior. Karmilla challenges social perceptions through the Slutwalk movement, a global movement calling for an end to the rape culture of victim blaming and slut shaming of sexual assault victims. Slutwalk’s supporters specifically protest against rape being explained or excused by referring to any aspect of a woman’s appearance.

What are some traits that influential women and women leaders have?

For me the most important quality is compassion. In order to be an effective leader, you need to be able to motivate others by supporting them to bring out their best.

Communication skills are also important. You need to be able to give clear instructions and express your opinions and goals in a way that others can easily follow so that teams can understand the common goals and work together to achieve them.

What are some of the personal and professional sacrifices that you’ve had to make in your career?

My biggest sacrifice has been financial. I run the NPO from home at my husband’s expense and don’t earn a salary for the work that I do. On a more personal note facilitating the support group, monthly meetings and daily counselling on the WhatsApp group has been emotionally exhausting for me, leading to some serious physical effects on my health.

As a female leader, what have been the most significant challenges you have faced?

The biggest challenge for me is apathy, especially working in the sphere of what is generally perceived to be a women’s problem. People generally find it difficult to talk about anything sexual at all. That makes it extremely challenging to create awareness around consent. There is also social conditioning around victim-blaming that one has to breakthrough in order to get any results at all. The authorities don’t treat violence against women with any kind of urgency at all and they believe public opinion to be the same as theirs.

Who inspired you and why?

Sass Shultz has been my greatest inspiration and role model.

At the first Slutwalk in 2011, she walked up on stage in boys’ pyjamas. She talked about how relieved she was that she was wearing those shapeless, flannel pyjamas, in her own bed, when strangers broke into her house and raped her. That way nobody could blame her. Then she started unbuttoning her shirt and said, “But what if..?”

As she flung off the shirt, revealing a sexy little top underneath, she asked, “If I had been wearing this instead, would it give anyone the right to violate me?”

In that moment, for the first time, I fully understood that I was not to blame for being raped. It didn’t matter that he was not a stranger in the bushes. It didn’t matter that I had been drinking. It didn’t matter that I didn’t fight hard enough. All that mattered was that I said, “NO”. I said “No” and he didn’t listen. That is what defined it as rape. That realization freed me from decades of self-blame, guilt and shame. It was a giant leap forward in my healing journey. I knew then and there that my calling in life was to be able to offer that same healing and understanding to as many people as I could reach.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

Keep supporting each other. Don’t get sucked into the idea that you have to use masculine energy to succeed in a male-dominated world. Our greatest strength as women is our ability to be nurturing and supportive and to build community spirit in the truest sense of that concept. We have the power to replace competition with co-operation. It is only by working together instead of competing with each other that we can change the world.

What advice can you share with young women entrepreneurs?

You are not intimidating. They are intimidated. There is a huge difference. Be yourself. Speak with strength and confidence. Do not be afraid to disagree with the popular opinion as long as you can back up your argument with research and logic. Prove yourself in a professional capacity before you take on the sexist remarks. I remember working in timeshare sales in the 90’s and a new (male) manager told some of the girls to go to the gym because attractive salespeople make more money. I was consistently one of the top 3 salespeople every month. I was able to tell him off about how stupid that was because I had the sales figures to back me up. Always make sure you have all your ducks in a row before you take on someone like that. Also never make a cup of coffee for any man who is not willing to do the same for you.

What type of environment is most supportive of women and girls with career and entrepreneurial aspirations in this country?

Love, love and more love. Put systems in place to make them feel safer. Have clearly defined processes to follow if they need to file complaints against coworkers. Make sure that there is always a supportive, compassionate female manager that they can turn to for help. Treat them with equal respect. Create mentorship programmes to help them continuously improve their skills. Build a corporate culture where sexual harassment or gender inequality is talked about openly and honestly with a view to solving problems rather than sweeping them under the carpet.

Jacqueline Aylett

A global citizen considering travel essential for spotting business partnership opportunities and to feed the soul. Jacqueline is a Generation Xer who is more akin to the i-Generation and is drawn to a world where anything is possible! She has a keen interest in the impact of technology on our future.

Founder of Gold Arc Holdings (Pty) Ltd and General Manager of it’s subsidiary, Flexiroam Africa, partner of Flexiroam Limited, she is responsible for partnerships and distribution agreements. On a mission to create an African footprint for Flexiroam, she is focused on

the inbound and outbound international travel sectors and securing market leadership for Flexiroam as the go-to data roaming solution.

What are some traits that stand influential women and women leaders in good stead?

Having the confidence to back themselves, the courage to be a pioneer, passion to be a learning machine, to be an excellent listener and a role model to others.

What are some of the personal and professional sacrifices that you’ve had to make in your career?

Time, finances and self-care.

As a female leader, what have been the most significant challenges you have faced?

Juggling a multitude of roles and demands and learning how to say no.

Who inspired you and why?

Dr. Veronica Bowker, my mother, who has always been an outlier. She taught me to be an independent thinker, the power of language, the importance of kindness, the principle of race and gender equality, the ability to think openly, the confidence to speak in public, the necessity to learn and the example that age simply doesn’t matter.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

Think broadly, travel widely, network extensively, share generously, operate fluidly, learn constantly, read voraciously, listen carefully, speak confidently, dress impeccably.

What advice can you share with young women entrepreneurs?

You are living in the most exciting time to be an entrepreneur. Believe in yourself and build a strong team to support you. Seek great mentors to guide you, advocates to promote you, financiers to fund your ideas and supporters who have your back. Exponential success and wealth is created if you can make money in your sleep. Acknowledge your successes and should there be failure, make sure you fail forward.

What type of environment is most supportive of women and girls with career and entrepreneurial aspirations in this country?

An environment offering personal safety, respect, inclusion, acknowledgement, mentorship, opportunities to learn and network with like-minded entrepreneurs.

Flexiroam Africa is proud to feature these uplifting interviews with Karmilla and Jackie. South Arica has so many remarkable women making a difference in so many ways. In celebration of their efforts, Flexiroam Africa is offering free activations on our leading data roaming solution to all women in South Africa who travel. Being able to stay connected in over 160 countries globally means more power to women! Flexiroam offers global travellers a convenient, affordable and secure solution for staying in contact. In strategic partnership with TripAdvisor, our mobile app offers 4G connectivity and data on demand in over 160 countries. All it requires is to attach the Flexiroam microchip to one’s own sim card once off and to download the app via Google Play or the App Store!

 

Our team member Etienne can be contacted at Etienne@flexiroamafrica.com or 061 023 5526 to redeem this free offer. To learn more about Flexiroam, visit our social media links:

https://www.flexiroamafrica.com/

https://www.facebook.com/flexiroamsouthafrica/

https://www.instagram.com/flexiroamafrica/

Love from the team at Flexiroam Africa

Author: Etienne Davids