AFI wrapped up its instalment of Joburg Fashion Week with a spectacular show and powerful statement on gender equality. To the surprise and delight of the audience, a steady stream of some of South Africa’s most celebrated men and women took to the ramp wearing ‘We should all be feminists’ t-shirts.
As Thuli Madonsela, Boity Thulo, Dr Smile, Anthony Lafor, Yanick Zakri and a whole host of celebrities put their name and style behind the initiative, the audience showed their appreciation and support by cheering, applauding and putting on the t-shirts themselves.
Founder and CEO of African Fashion International, Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, says the initiative was in celebration of Women’s Month and inspired by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi’s much-lauded book and TED Talk ‘We should all be feminists’.
“A feminist is a man or women who believes in social, political and economic equality of the sexes. Our initiative is very much about inclusion and collaboration, about seeing women’s rights as human rights, about working together to make things work better.” stated Dr Moloi-Motsepe.
“Fashion is not just about clothes and how you look. It has a powerful voice that can be used to raise societal and cultural issues and create meaningful change.”
This was clearly demonstrated when Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first female artistic director of the celebrated French fashion house Dior, put the ‘We should all be feminists’ slogan on t-shirts at her debut show in 2016. The phenomenon went global, appearing on fashion walks, celebrities, superstars and women from all walks of life celebrating solidarity for equality.
“The 1956 Women’s March, during which 20 000 women marched against the pass laws in South Africa, was instrumental in changing the way women view themselves”, says Dr Moloi-Motsepe, “and while our country has made great strides since then, with many policies being implemented to readdress gender inequality, there is still much that needs to be done in terms of our perceptions and attitude.”
A long-standing champion of women rights, Dr Moloi-Motsepe believes that to achieve gender equality, we have to address gender stereotyping. We have to examine our cultural beliefs and reexamine how we raise our sons and daughters.
“We must affirm our daughters as much as we do our sons. We must raise our sons to see their partners and bring up their daughters as equals,” says Dr Moloi-Motsepe
“What we hoped to achieve with this initiative was to start a conversation about gender equality. An honest, open and positive conversation that gains momentum and support from men and women alike. Judging by the reaction of the audience, this is exactly what transpired.
Dr Moloi-Motsepe was quick to pass the credit on, “I would like to thank Leigh-Anne Williams, Sinazo Yolwa, Fares Hachi, Kim Jayde Robinson, Kgomotso Christopher, Philisiwe Mthetwa, Anthony Lafor, Yanick Zakri, Thabo Nthethe, Annie Malan, Phuti Mahanyele, Boity Thulo, Dr Smile, Thembi Seete, Yung Swiss, Ayanda Thabethe, Lindiwe Mazibuko and Thuli Madonsela for their support and involvement, and for taking the time out of their busy schedules to shine their light on women’s rights.”