In this world we live in today, most people would argue that women are free to make their own decisions ¬– decisions that determine their professional lives and their wellbeing as a whole. But I say, “As long as there is still gender inequality in our society, we are not yet ‘uhuru’.”
It was 2017 when I was doing my matric at a high school in a small township called Alexandra east of Johannesburg. I would stay at school long after the knock-off hour to study because my home environment did not allow me a quiet study space since I lived in a small shack with my family. Like any other child raised in poverty, I wanted to obtain good marks and go to a tertiary institution. It was indeed tiring but l did not mind because l knew my goal.
As I continued knocking off late and going home around 7pm, l noticed that I was being stalked. At first l thought l was being delusional and so l didn’t bother informing anyone. But, after a couple of days, I noticed that the same man was following me. So I informed my male class teacher. His response shocked me to the core. It proved that gender inequality was alive and kicking in today’s society.
My teacher told me that if I was scared of going home late, then I should just stop knocking -off late because everyone knew that my effort will yield no results, as l am a female. He said there was no place in the academic world for females because females are destined for bearing children and knowing their way around the kitchen. After that encounter with my teacher, l realized that l had to take matters into my own hands, even though l was terrified.
At home I asked my uncle to collect me from school every evening but I still had to ask for permission to carry a phone to school from the school’s principal so that I could inform my uncle when I was finished studying.
Getting this permission was a challenge. I first had to convince the School Governing Body before even talking to the principal.
During that time the man who was preying on me decided to make his move.
As I was going home, the man followed me until we were in a secluded place. He then picked up his pace and caught up with me before I could make a run for it.
He pulled me by my wrist causing me to scream in agony. He then came closer and said, “Hey young lady, it’s amazing how dedicated you are and truly speaking, I admire your commitment. Unfortunately, I cannot let you go on because you and my nephew are on the school’s top two and we both know that we can’t let a female be in the leading position.”
When I got home that day, my uncle and I decided to inform the local police. The police said I should carry on as normal and that they would follow me closely so that they could catch the culprit. For the next two days, nothing happened, no one approached me. But on the third day, my troubles came to an end.
The man decided to approach me. But the policeman, dressed in plain clothes, arrested him before he could do any harm. When he was interrogated, he revealed his identity and that’s when we were able to trace his nephew. It even turned out that my ‘not so friendly’ class teacher was actually their family friend.
I continued studying very hard and eventually passed my matric. This is the 21st century and everyone has the right to shape their future, regardless of their gender. Gender inequality must vanish.