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Zahara Abdul, Lilian & Azola Mayekiso


Meet The IKONS: Azola, Lilian & Zahara

Three women changing the way we view the world


Mar 26, 2021, 07:37 AM

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Zahara Abdul, Lilian & Azola Mayekiso
Throughout the month and in honour of International Women's Day we will be sharing 100 stories from 100 African women as part of IKON 100. Today, we speak to Zahara Abdul, Lilian Mubaiwa & Azolo Mayekiso

These women are from different countries, backgrounds and professions but what binds YAZA, them, and you together is the fact that we all fundamentally believe that when women support women great things happen. 

They say the future is female, we say the future is now.

Lilian Mubaiwa

First, I must say that it is not only a privilege to be a woman but also to be a woman who is in an environment where I can make choices and where I can express myself – respectfully of course! Most importantly, I am grateful to the Almighty to be alive and healthy in these days of the COVID pandemic.
Lilian Mubaiwa: Zimbabwe
If there is anything that the challenges we have encountered over the last year or so has taught us, it is the fact that we do not live in a vacuum but rather in a global village.  What affects me is likely to affect my neighbour, my country and other nations!  I simply cannot think selfishly. I must do all I can to uplift others.  

This year’s International Women’s Day theme Choose to Challenge represents the responsibility that we have as women and men, to challenge the status quo and ensure that we don’t get tired of uplifting other women - just as much as we hope to be uplifted by others.  We become stronger together!  
"If we don’t choose to challenge, we may never be able to contribute towards the upliftment of others.  Given the chance, women can rule the world!"
I am here because of other women and men who chose to challenge the status quo and support me.  I would like to do the same.  I believe that If we all do that and continue to pay it forward’ to the next person we will become a strong force that has a huge impact in changing the world to be a better place for generations to come.

Lilian Mubaiwa is a marketing executive

Azolo Mayekiso

Being a Black African woman in 2021 is like an extreme sport. Not only are we expected to continue to be primary caregivers in the home environment, the work environment is equally unforgiving expecting us to give of ourselves as though we have no other responsibilities outside of it.

Being women, we are of course able to meet both expectations yet the gender pay gap continues to exist and women must still contend with gender based violence in broader society; which the President of South Africa recently dubbed a second pandemic. Being a Black African woman in 2021 also means I have an opportunity to get involved in changing society to be what I want to see. I am no longer a second rate citizen with no voice but I have the ability and an opportunity to make a positive mark; no matter the difficulty.
Azola Mayekiso: South Africa
Africa is endowed with many natural resources yet its people continue to suffer from poverty, unemployment and inequality. These three challenges can definitively be addressed if only Africa had the sort of leaders who were conscientious and wanted to do right by her people. I am bothered by the indifference and self-serving nature of our leaders both in the political arena and in business and I wish I could make these leaders understand that political power ought to be used for the benefit of the people and to also futureproof countries for future generations. 
"I wish I could make business leaders understand that there is such a thing as conscious capital – that the profit motive of capital can exist alongside capital being responsible in its ventures."
It is my personal mission to do what I can within my sphere of influence to do right by the people of Africa; starting in my own country of course. One of my companies has partnered up with communities in one of our poorest Provinces, the Eastern Cape, to help them bring their only asset – their land – into commercial use. This social enterprise is designed for the communities to share in the profits that the entity generates with each harvest that we will enjoy. The communities will also be employed in the primary agriculture venture and once we develop the agro-processing value chain, more employment will be created. In 2021 I hope to execute on this vision on at least one piece of land.

Azola Mayekiso is a social entrepreneur

Zahara Abdul

I want to be intentional about my work this year. I am keen on extending a mentoring hand to young women interested in visual storytelling.
I am particularly interested in this because photography still remains a largely male dominated industry. Throughout my five-year photography career the experience has modeled my understanding that photography plays an important role in highlighting key issues in our society, which in itself acts as a tool of change.
Zahara Abdul: Uganda
When I envision a Black African woman in 2021, my mind instantly goes to the resilient single mother homeschooling her children in defiance of the pandemic, some of which I have had the privilege to document.

I see a bold Black African woman in the faces of my female colleagues who go out of their comfort zones to document the lives and experiences of others even with the risk of COVID-19 very much alive.

I have been largely inspired by those who are keen on taking up spaces regardless of the damper that Covid-19 has placed in our lives.
I am reminded of photographers documenting and shooting assignments remotely through zoom.

I struggle with knowing that as a woman you’re an easy target. You can rise to be the best photographer in the world but the fact that you are a woman there’s always a security barrier that you’re more conscience of than a man. The lingering sense of insecurity is unavoidable especially on personal assignments. I have had to think twice before taking up some assignments
The cost of proper photography gear is a hindrance too.  
"I don’t think there’s a quick solution, which is in itself an actual challenge."
While I might not have answers to world’s biggest problems my hope is that by using photography I’m able to amplify people’s concerns and stories with hope that this contribution will somehow continue to impact people’s lives positively. 

Knowing that the camera holds so much power gives me hope!

Zahara Abdul is a photographer

Read: Meet the IKONS