Zamantungwa Khumalo

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Slaying in India and My Cup Running Over

My heart is so full. So. Damn. Full.

I spoke to a group of 200+ young leaders from mostly India and the US this evening. I was asked to speak about gender parity and instead of spewing numbers (which I’ve learnt isn’t my strong point, unless it’s in my bank account), I spoke about my experience as a young woman and what gender equality and empowerment means to me.

I spoke about how I want to live in a South Africa, in a world, where I don’t get punished for characteristics my older brother got praised for, while we were growing up. How, as a pre-teen, I was called bossy, instead of being called a natural born leader, like my brother was.

As an aside, I once had someone at work call me dictatorial. I’ve never heard a male manager be referred to like that. Ever. I remember thinking, of all the words you can use to describe me, you use the word we use to describe the worst types of leaders, the ones who commit unthinkable atrocities. Really?! The record should probably reflect that when said person was asked about what about me is ‘dictatorial’ they didn’t have empirical evidence to back up their claim. Kodwa they made it. Very confidently.

I digress.

After my talk, I had a lot of people come up to me saying they enjoyed my talk, found me to be the most interesting and insightful speaker thus far. I never know what to say to such compliments, often thinking abantu are saying that just nje, but everytime I think that, I remember Sisonke saying to me, abantu don’t owe you a compliment, if they give it, they mean it. So I smiled and said thank you. And I meant it.

I had a young woman, maybe 3 or 4 years younger than me, come to me and say she’s experienced what I spoke about and wanted to know how I don’t let the noise of ‘you’re bossy, you’re too much, you’re a bitch’ get to me.

I didn’t have a direct answer to her question because sometimes the noise gets to me. The best I could give her was to surround herself with a tribe that’ll keep her sane. People she can go to when the noise makes you doubt your abilities, your intelligence but mostly, when it makes you doubt and second guest yourself.

I had a 12 year old little girl come up to me and say she knows me from watching my TEDx talk. That she absolutely loved that talk and has watched it a few times. I had forgotten I even did that. Yet there I was, standing in front of this girl, in New Delhi, telling me she’s so happy to meet someone she’s been watching and finds inspiring.

I had the director and the principal of the best school in India say they’d love for me to speak to their students. They mentioned how, rare as it is in India, the management at their school is over 80% female and my talk resonated with them.

My heart is full. I’m so damn grateful.

P.S. This was meant to be a Facebook post but so many of you have been asking me to blog. I’m terrified of writing and do my utmost to avoid doing it. Those of you who’ve been asking me to blog (or worse, write a book) keep pointing out that I have long Facebook statuses, which often read like a blog post. So this is me fake blogging.

P.P.S. I’ll post my full talk, or parts of it, once I’m back in SA. I’m publicly declaring it so I don’t chicken out of it.

Yours in Slaying.

1 Comment

  1. You're such a refreshing being and you're one of the people that inspires me a lot. You've pushed so many boundaries and doing well for yourself. I love how you love yourself and let your work and passion speak for you. You really do inspire me Zama. I'd really wish one day I meet you. You're someone I'd like to be mentored by as a young woman..I have dwarfism and sometimes it gets too much for me as people expect me to be what they think I should be rather than what I believe I am and be. Anyway I love you woman

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