"Wathin' abafazi" refers to a collective of women, not individuals!

"Amandla, nga wethu. We are stronger when we stand together, we do not need to be iimbokodo as individuals, it is in our solidarity that we become a solid rock."

A piece featured in Perfect Love Books by Kay-Dee Mashile - Capetown, South Africa



I've always struggled with the phrase "wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo", mainly because we've misunderstood it. We've somewhat misconstrued it to mean that women, individually, are rocks that stiffen up when struck. This has subjected women to many abuses that should and probably would have never been there had they not be perceived to be as resilient to pain as rocks. But, I just had a realisation, let's call it an "aha moment". It just dawned on me that the literal translation of this statement is, "strike the women, strike a rock" not what we've been taught. Which is, "strike a woman, strike a rock". What's the difference? Well, thanks for asking, let me share my realisation with you.


Now, women should never be stricken but here we are. We have this saying. So let's demystify it. When this saying was coined, it was probably the very first time in South African history that women took a stand. Never mind women of different races. This was probably the very first time in history that women stood together as a unit. And it is in this state of unity that they were able to achieve in a day what many lives had been lost for over a period of decades. It was in solidarity that women became a solid rock. So, when they said "wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokodo", I would like to believe that they were referring to their collective power.


In today's world, we've been fed the lie that only a certain number of women can coexist within a space, lest they pull each other down. And this toxic mentality, however true it may be to a certain extent, has achieved nothing but the division of women. Women find themselves isolated in all pockets of society, especially in the economic sector, and thus have to stand alone. In this state of vulnerability, individual female bodies are not rocks. No matter how hard we strike them, whether physically or systematically, they can never become rocks. They bleed and die. Even as a collective, women still aren't individually as hard as rocks.


It is when women come together that change begins to happen. It is what systems are challenged and their oppression dismantled. Perhaps the way forward is to find more ways of coming together. We need to come to the knowledge of our collective strength and power. We are a lot stronger together. In our solidarity, we are a solid rock! This perhaps calls for all of us to turn in our capes in order to sew them together I to a victory flag. Not only against one form of oppression but all of them. We need to come together, with all our diverse realities, struggles and movements.


Because the future of activism is collaboration!

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