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An Interview With South Africa’s Owthu Makhathini, A Digital Womanist

Owethu is beyond a force to be reckoned with. This incredible Google Certified genius is taking over the digital sphere by holding workshops and talks across the country through her consultancy, Makhathini Media – which provides innovative ways to show young women how they can advance their careers using digital marketing.

Owethu created her platform to upskill young business-minded women and show others how you can liberate women through social media. Let’s take a look at Owethu’s journey on how she is making a difference in empowering women while making her mark in the digital industry.

Tell us more about Makhathini Media?

Makhathini Media is a creative consultancy that specializes in offering tailored digital marketing and ICT training. We tailor the content depending on the needs of the client, not just for young people but for large corporates and government parastatals. We have a long way to go in terms of digital literacy. I want to ultimately be in a position to fund creative projects, upskill people in digital skills, facilitate networking events and help big brands and businesses create compelling, perception-shifting work.

What projects do you have up your sleeve?

I have 2 very special projects coming up and I couldn’t be more excited! One ties into the focus of the business which is the training aspect while the other ties into the secondary goal of the business which is creating a community underpinned by the restorative power of sisterhood.

We hope to create networks of women who inspire, uplift and collaborate with each other. 2018 is going to an exciting year for Makhathini Media!

The media industry has predominantly been male-dominated. How do you navigate this reality as a woman and leader in the digital industry?

If we are being honest, most industries are male-dominated. Patriarchy is maintained and is a tool of capitalism, that much is inescapable. I am fortunate that in the digital marketing space, one has the power to create a platform that can exist to challenge mainstream ideas.

Business is ruthless and as a young, black woman there are additional challenges we face to get into the room and be taken seriously, never mind having a seat at the table. As a businesswoman, you have to be able to stand in your truth and create an ecosystem of women that look like you to collaborate and make money with. There definitely is strength in numbers.

How has the process and reception of educating the youth on the digital sphere been?

Young women are the most receptive to skills training. They are often the ones that already have small-scale businesses running from home who just need a boost of knowledge. I have had mostly young women come up to me after my sessions to share their stories or to thank me for showing them that someone as young as them has found a niche and is making a business around it.

The project I am initiating in 2018 will attend to the needs of the young women who have attended one of my sessions. There is a need that must be met and I feel that I am the perfect position to facilitate it. It is very humbling, inspiring and truthfully, it is what keeps me going when I feel overwhelmed.

As a mentor to other women, who do you go to for inspiration and why?

My great-grandmother, grandmothers, and my mother. Outside of my family, I look up to the Knowles sisters, Oprah Winfrey, Nunu Ntshingila, Zodwa Khumalo, Khanyi Dhlomo and Bonang Matheba.

I grew up in a matriarchal family with women who were equally strong and soft. They provided a firm foundation that I have built my version of womanhood on. The women in my family are not too different from women around the world. We are resilient because we must be. We are people who can get things done without disregarding our empathy.

Can digital marketing play a role in liberating women, especially in South Africa?

Firstly, the internet is a border-less place, we are able to share ideas across the world in a matter of moments. This means that even if you feel isolated in your geographical area, you can find a community of like-minded individuals by simply searching for those people online.

Secondly, the information shared online can make people aware of the organizations that exist to help women out of situations where they feel helpless.

Thirdly, digital marketing is a business opportunity. If a woman is being financially abused, she is able to run a small business through WhatsApp or social media, therefore getting practical help.

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