Phumeza Langa is a freelance writer, communications consultant, wife, mother, host of weekly Twitter chat, #SistaHoodHour – and does all of that whilst maintaining a 9-5. She an advocate of women championing women, supporting and celebrating each other, a feminist and a serial opportunity sharer. She’s passionate about Africa and seeing us change the narrative of our continent, owning and sharing it with one another and the world. We chatted to the inspirational creative about her platform, why celebrating and advancing women is so important to her and her role in Brutal Fruit’s Success Tastes Better Shared campaign.
Q: Please tell us about some of the initiatives you’re currently involved in.
A: I’m currently focused on growing my writing portfolio, I started writing for two online platforms last year and I would love submit more pieces for them, whilst working towards adding more platforms. #SistaHoodHour is still a strong focus for me and kicking things up a notch. There is more that I can and need to do with the platform and I’m exploring what I can and the how / execution part of it too. I’m also working with the Brutal Fruit team to bring light to the issues that women face and how we can come together to showcase the power of the collective. And there is more I’m keen to get involved in this year and I’m trying to figure out how to execute without dropping any balls or putting crazy pressure on myself.
Q: What are you most proud of on your journey thus far?
A: Pursuing my writing, and doing more of it than I was doing 2 years ago and sourcing more opportunities to grow. I’ve pushed myself harder and focused on the work part of things as opposed to day-dreaming about it. #SistaHoodHour – it has been almost 2 years and every week’s chat feels like the very first one. I’m proud of how it has grown and the topics we have covered with our guests. I am thankful for the interaction each week, without that, it wouldn’t be what it is today.
Q: Why did you decide to start SisterHoodHour and what are you hoping to achieve with it?
A: The opportunity for #SistaHoodHour came about following another Twitter chat that I was a guest on, hosted by @CreativeChatSA and we saw that gap there was to take the conversations that we have with colleagues, family members and friends, and bring them to a wider audience. As a woman, I had so many questions and opinions on various matters and it was always difficult to have those conversations with older women, because a lot of the time it’s topics that challenged the status quo in some way or another. I want it to be the norm / okay to ask questions, in a respectful manner, in order to understand better and learn about the things done in one’s family, in society / culture and also how to incorporate that into daily life as well as share that knowledge with others especially the generation that comes after us. The hush-hush conversations that take place need to stop and the attitude of “You must do this because we say so” needs to cease to exist, there is a huge opportunity for knowledge sharing and learning across all generations, cultures and racial and religious groups.
Q: What has the response/feedback been thus far?
A: Positive! It has been incredible to hear from women who have gained new knowledge on a subject matter or learnt something about a guest. The messages of encouragement are really heart-warming and also the suggestions for guests and the “Thank you” messages have made it all worth it. I’ve even had a few men share feedback and share what they have learnt, although they are just watching from the sidelines, they do gain something too – which is awesome!
Q: Considering the growth of your platform, where do you see yourself in 2-5 years?
A: A lot of it has to do with writing. I would love to be freelancing much more and deriving an income from that, and incorporating some travel within and without our borders with my family as I work. Growing #SistaHoodHour and using other platforms both online and in person to share the inspiration with more women and young girls.
Q: You call yourself Feminist Makoti. Please can you expand on that and why feminism is important to you?
A: I am a firm believer in the power of women and what we can achieve individually and as a collective, even though we live in patriarchal society that wants to tell us where we belong as women. As a feminist makoti, I believe in the growth, emancipation of all women, no matter their backgrounds. I believe in sharing our stories can celebrating our wins together as a collective, be it small or big. Emotional, psychological, physical, financial / economical emancipation and growth is what I want to see more of!
As a makoti, a lot of the time people have this idea that you don’t have a voice or cannot share your opinion because you aren’t “seen” as anything more than just the bride – but it is possible to be heard, share your thoughts, challenge opinions and effect change for the better without having to be forceful or destructive. When needed, we must be vocal, persuasive and fight for our place in the world and be see and spoken to as human beings. Society would rather have us just sit quietly and not get involved in anything that has an impact on us as women and we cannot have that. Feminism is about being bold enough to say that “I matter!” – and pushing to ensure that there is real and tangible equality in the economic and social spaces of society and not only be paid lip service. Feminism is not about women being part of this change, men can also be feminists and help move society forward. As a mother to a girl, I want for her to have a different and better experience of this world, and I want her to take things forward not only for herself but for others in the world, those that stand with her and for those who are in the generation that follows her. Feminism is independence; freedom of choice; freedom of expression with no judgement and knowing being an empowered, strong woman is not a bad thing.
Q: Which women are you inspired by and why?
A: It is a wide range of women. The ones who are well known, those who we never hear about or the ones we interact with on a daily basis. I am inspired by all those women, as they find ways to take themselves forward in life, making it better so that they can provide for their loved ones. The women are working different jobs in order to make ends meet or because they have a passion to pursue which is yet to provide an income that will allow them to leave their day job. I am inspired by women who stand in their faith no matter what the world and life experiences they go through that tries to shake them. As corny as this may sound, the different women I have had the pleasure and honour of interviewing on #SistaHoodHour from when it started until now. WOWZA! I have learnt so many lessons, been introduced to new ways of thinking / perspective, problem solving and also looking forward and continuously seeking excellence. There are also the women who I am yet to speak to you via the platform who are doing great work and enjoying what they do and do it well day by day. The feisty, loyal, strong, powerful, inspiring, committed, humble, big-hearted and more, woman of many talents. They really remind me, in their various ways as they walk this life journey in their unique ways, that it is possible
Q: What can we expect from #SisterHoodHour this year?
A: More conversation related to industries, careers and woman as well as topics that greatly impact our lives both positively and negatively. I’m hoping to move into a different platform and exploring something there but still keeping with Twitter as the primary platform.
Q: What criteria do you use to select interview subjects?
A: I’m truly not rigid with the criteria however I do check that the guests I have on the chat would appeal to the audience and can share what they know with them. Also, subject matter experts are great, because they can share valuable insights that one may not be aware of, as well as offer advice or ideas of how one can go about to tackle an issue or stumbling block. The guest needs to be as comfortably open and honest in what they share on the chat as I want to have a real conversation with them, understand their challenges a bit more and how they overcame them; know how they are choosing to share their knowledge with others too and how they are continuously looking for ways to learn about their own craft.
Q: Which women in the industry would you like to celebrate or work with?
A: The list is a long one! I would be love to have the opportunity to have a #SistaHoodHour conversation or collaborate with quite a few women including: Basetsana Kumalo; Nunu Ntshingila; Lauren Woolf; Carol Bouwer, Vika Shipalana; Ava DuVernay; Kgethi Phakeng; Mapaseka Mokwele; Thabiso Sikwane; Angie Khumalo; Ursula “Brown Sugar” Chikane.
Q: What advice would you offer to you women who look up to you?
A: Remain curious / inquisitive; ask questions – there are the people who will gladly share their knowledge with you. Pursue the highest level of excellence in what you do and stay true to yourself. Love what you do – even on the days when you wonder why you chose whatever profession you are in and you’re feeling frustrated and disheartened – there is a lesson in it all. Also, look at the opportunities that go beyond your day-to-day work, pursue your interests and work hard at getting better at them and learning from others who are doing what you would like to. It will mean doing much more but if you enjoy it, then the late hours, sleep deprivation will pay off one day. It is hard but it is not impossible. To paraphrase a T.D. Jakes quote “Your passion will lead you into your purpose.” I hold onto that on the hard days when I even wonder why I keep pursuing my passions. Find and honour your tribe – they will keep you going on the days when you want to quit, they will lift you up and remember to do the same for them.
Q: Please share more on your role in the Brutal Fruit campaign and why it was important for you to be a part of it?
A: My role in the Brutal Fruit campaign was to keep doing what I do in my #SistaHoodHour work and continue the conversation of how women can be for women in a real way that it positive, uplifting as well as encouraging other women to do likewise. It takes nothing away from any of us as women to help another person in their work, encouraging them, sharing a contact and even giving constructive feedback. It has been a great campaign to be a part of because Brutal Fruit has found a way to challenge the societal issues of women not being for one another and put to all of us to do better and be better – and make sure that we are our sister’s keeper, if we see something that goes against the sisterhood, we are the first ones to change it for the better. It’s not a once-off, it’s an everyday lifestyle, a way of being that I could be a part of in my own way.
Q: What legacy would you like to leave as a woman in the industry?
A: That I was part of a generation of women who believed that they could and that they did something that was more than just ourselves. I want to leave the legacy of having been able to show that it takes nothing away from you to lift up a sister and cheer her on her journey, that being kind is possible and knowing your worth, and fighting for it. I want to show that you can find a way of sharing people’s stories of hope and encouragement, someone will see that story and be encouraged.