Expectations meet reality…

So in preparation for my data collection which I hope will start soon. I have been having practice shoots or mock situations with friends who have been so generous to pose as farmers and extension officers. Allowing me to take videos while they demonstrate how the farmer and extension officer will most likely interact when working together in establishing home gardens. The mock shoots were suggested by my supervisor since I have never worked with a camera before. He made me understand that it would be beneficial for me to get used to working with the camera before meeting the actual participants of the study. Having this experience has in many ways prepared me for some of the realities I can expect when I begin my actual data collection.

People prepare in various ways for various situations. For example, some people meditate, some go to the venue where they will be presenting or writing exams to familiarize themselves with the environment and some have mock presentations or situations to help keep themselves calm. In my situation having mock situations was the best way for me to prepare. Being prepared either for exams, presentations, an interview or a meeting puts one at a competitive advantage, enhances strategic thinking, self-discipline and builds confidence.  

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From regular clothes to a work suit…

My expectation about wearing the “right clothes” for the work I will be doing was “of course I will get dirty, I mean I will be working in gardens with smallholder farmers after all, but surely I will not get that dirty besides, I will be the girl operating the camera most of the time”. Consequently, on the first day of shooting the mock videos, I put on jeans, sneakers and a cute jersey what a miscalculation. The wind blew so drastically by the time we were finished my black sneakers looked pale from dust, my blue jeans were literally brown I do not even want to talk about the cute jersey I had on it was not so cute anymore. At that moment it hit me, my dress style has to change from everyday clothes to a work-suit and a doek. The doek is for protecting my hair from dust. On the bright side of things, this does mean less laundry for me… hehehe.

Unexpected challenges

I thought that the challenges I would encounter would be internal more than they would be external. For example, I anticipated having challenges with operating my camera while engaging with the person I am interviewing and choosing the appropriate software for editing videos. I was intimidated by working with editing software’s but now that I have been experimenting with them I have gained confidence.  However, I really did not expect to be confronted by social challenges like livestock roaming around and destroying my hard work. We used a friend’s backyard to prepare the soil, plant the seedlings and eventually got the video done.  The content of the video was about the “best methods of planting that are available to smallholder farmers when starting a home garden”. My friend lives in a commune and a day after we planted our seedlings one of the tenants left the gate open and a cow came in and ate all the seedlings… I died.  So we had to start from the beginning because we cannot monitor the crops inside the stomach of a cow we do not know. I did not see the cow coming…literally.  Seriously caught me off guard.

 

Having the opportunity to prepare for my actual data collection made realize that there is probably a lot of work, shock and plan B’s waiting to be executed. It has also taught me that no two days are the same. Just because one day of data collection has gone well does not mean that the next day will be just as good. Preparation even just a little goes a long way I can attest.

WOMANDLA !!

Having grown up in a Christian family I read the bible a lot. It followed naturally that I would believe in the supernatural power of God. This blog, however, is not about what I do or do not ascribe power to in my personal space but I mention this part of my upbringing to make reference to a story in the bible I once read that got me thinking about how courageous women are. 

It takes courage to pursue one’s dreams

The story was about the twelve spies from Israel that were sent to “examine” the land of Canaan that the Lord was going to give to their possession as a people. Ten of the twelve spies came back reporting that it would be impossible to take over that land because the people were too powerful, the city is very large and greatly fortified.  They could not even imagine fighting the people of that land. However two out of the twelve spies had a different attitude, they reported that yes the people are big and the walls are huge but conquering them can be done, it is not impossible.

I liken women who pursue their careers in whatever field be it sports, law,  social and business entrepreneurship, academics and in many other fields, to the two spies who came back from exploring Canaan with a different attitude from the rest. The world of “work” was without a doubt created for men but the women who have over the years dared to initiate working environments that are suitable for women to work in. Women advancing in any field of work has never been an easy task due to a number of stumbling blocks that they come across based solely on the fact that they are women. One such subtle but lethal stumbling block is the social pressure of “being found suitable for marriage”.

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The pressure and expectations are real

Women especially young women are expected to “behave” a certain way, not be too successful more than their male counterparts or they will definitely end up alone. They can achieve but not too much, they can make money but not too much money and they better make sure they remain “humble” in their achievements if they do not want to end up alone.  I was once asked by a dear family member (whose relation to me I will not mention) “who will marry you when you have a PhD?” dumbfounded by this question and not really sure how to answer I was rescued by my sister “other men with PhD’s as well” she said jokingly. That was the first time I was subjected to this kind of pressure and I remember walking away from that conversation counting the number of “men with PhD’s and who are perusing PhD’s who could be potential husbands” … sad right? I think my experience was a tip of the iceberg compared to the stories millions of women can relay with regards to this type of social pressure all because they are bold and courageous enough to pursue their dreams. I respect women folk because despite what society has said and done over the years women have not been the kind to sit back, fold their arms and say oh well this is our fate.

Resilience is key

To me, they resemble those two spies who came back with the same report but had a different attitude, an attitude that said: “it may be difficult but it is not impossible”. One such woman who comes to mind is Caster Semenya.  That girl has been handling her case with such grace and dignity. I draw a lot of strength just by observing her hold her head up and fighting to stay in the game despite the IAAF’s determination to get rid of her. I can only imagine the self-strengthening conversations she must have with herself to keep herself going. Often times when I get discouraged in my academic journey I read about her and her strength always comes through for me. Caster is a true embodiment of WOMANDLA!!!

I imagine that those two spies had their nation, they were more concerned about the future of the people who they had left behind and not so much their own lives. Women like Mamokgeti Phakeng who are willing to forsake their comfort (salaries to pay for student fees), fear, personal time to serve their nations defiantly inspire and build courage in other women to be bold in chasing their dreams and serving the people of their nation and the world.

We women in our respective fields work hard to contribute to overcoming the numerous challenges in our various disciplines, environments and social spaces. We do not offer ourselves in service to other people by applying ourselves to our work because it is easy to do but because it must be done. If not for us then for generations to come. As Beyoncé said it our “persuasion as women can build nations” in this academic space we woman are working to build an informed nation.