Mai Sikhosana-the Mother who listened

Theresa Takafuma
Posted January 20, 2019 from Zimbabwe

I am probably a bit  late, with this article, but I guess it's better late than never.   When I was still young and fresh in the newsroom, I used to be very inquisitive and had a penchant for triggering discussions with people from all walks of life. Every person I met was a potential news source, and apart from my general belief in the goodness of people, I valued every little bit of human interaction I had. I especially loved talking to women from all corners of the community I work in, and from each discussion I had, there was always a story to tell, whether or not I had the capacity to tell them all. One of the reasons why I enjoyed interacting with women during my work was that the absence of female voices in our stories really made me feel really uncomfortable. The portrayal of women in news stories wasn't, or should I say isn't exactly something to celebrate, and that is probably why the women in my community seem to evade the platforms and forums where development is discussed. ( I always have mega fights with my male colleagues who vehemently dispute this.)    I usually had to find myself being the only woman in a room full of men during the evening press discussions, normally organized by media advocacy organizations and although I had to fake jellying up with the men, there was still a void inside me.                                             I ended being over friendly to women I would meet doing my work to compensate that loneliness, and it was during that period when I met Mrs Sikhosana, whom I will call Mai Sikhosana in this article. I cannot remember exactly how I met her, and I was soon to find out that, like me, she loved reading and would frequent the information kiosk an access to information organization had set up in our town. The very first time we met, we had a rich discussion about how women's voices were lacking in news, and the one thing that made us click was her ability to listen to my thoughts, naïve as they were at that time.  Mai Sikhosana was elderly, probably in her late sixties, had a strong Ndebele accent, and a sweet aura around her you couldn't help but like her. She was the one woman I was sure would be present at any one of the public discussions and dialogues held in and around the city, and she would always participate and share her wisdom during the plenary sessions. I remember one particular evening, there was a gathering meant to discuss the gender disparities in workplaces and to the annoyance of both of us, there were only three women present; Mai Sikhosana, myself and another lady among a horde of men. Mai Sikhosana, as expected, gave the organizers a hard time making them acknowledge their reluctance in inviting women to discuss issues that affect them.                                In no time I found myself looking up to her even though we were from different fields. She was in the civic society and advocacy field while I was a journalist. She also sat on various boards of several organizations across the province and was a respected member of society.                                          Every time I would bump into her, I would run my ideas through her, and she'd always encourage me never to lose my voice. She would always say to me, "You are the young and energetic. If you lose your voice, you would have thrown the revolution towards gender equality in disarray." I remember archiving those WhatsApp chats until the message stuck right onto my brain.                                            At some point, I was tasked to facilitate discussions with women in media in my city by Gender Media Connect, then Federation of African Media Women in Zimbabwe, and we called those discussions "Candid Talks."                                                  The first person who came to mind as one of the panelists was Mai Sikhosana. She had so much knowledge to share about professionalism, safety and diligence to the young women in mdia.        She would listen to each and every one of our stories, and never once judge harshly or invalidate our fears of the abundant male vultures in our field. Mai Sikhosana was such a blessing to me and I believe, to many others.                                     One dreadful morning I had to wake up to the news that she had succumbed to diabetes and had passed on. It was so difficult to process, and although I had now bagged a number of achievements, I still wanted her voice to echo in those public discussions. I still wanted her soft Ndebele accent to charm younger women into believing in themselves. I still wanted one more Candid Talk with her. I still wanted to chat her up on WhatsApp. I still wanted her to pick up the phone and say "daughter" and I would say "mother" on the other end. Above all, I still wanted her listen to my concerns, which seem to grow with my age in the field.                            Although I could not attend her funeral, in my heart I would always register that I once had a Mother at work and that felt nice. One my aspirations is to be as accommodating as she was whenever a younger woman needs me. It is what she left me with and I pray Power Classes For Women (PC4W) at Girls Speak Out produce more of those who listen.  

Comments 4

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jlanghus
Jan 21
Jan 21

Hi Theresa,

How are you? Thanks so much for sharing your heartfelt story about Mai Sikhosana. She sounds like a truly remarkable role model and friend. I'm sorry for your loss. I'm sure she wouldn't be disappointed in who you have become and will be, especially if this is your intention and goal, to help empower younger women.

Hope you're having a great day!

Mbizo Chirasha
Jan 21
Jan 21

great.

Beth Lacey
Jan 31
Jan 31

She sounds like a wonderful woman. I see that you miss her greatly.

Obisakin Busayo
Feb 04
Feb 04

She was such a wonderful mother, so sorry for the loss! Thanks for sharing her with us