Gender Alliance: “An equal world is when we do not have to fight for our place.”

Thandi Dyani
Human Rights

Gender equality is not only a human right but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world as envisioned by the UN’s 2030 Agenda. The Gender Alliance is an initiative that pushes for a feminist agenda to foster gender equity in line with Sustainable Development Goal 5. Thandi Allin Dyani is one of its members.

Who are you?

Thandi Dyani: My name is Thandi Allin Dyani and I live and work in Johannesburg and Copenhagen.

Gender AllianceFemale

Gender Alliance

The Gender Alliance is a network-driven initiative to bring feminists together to accelerate gender equality. Its members come from the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network, the Global Diplomacy Lab, and the Robert Bosch Foundation. Together, they strive to accelerate the achievement of the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals on gender equity and equality within their respective organizations, communities, and spheres of influence. This series is an effort to amplify amazing women who are pushing boundaries and breaking glass ceilings every day, personally and professionally.

Why did you join the Gender Alliance, and what is most important for you?

Thandi Dyani: I joined the Gender Alliance at the 6th BMW Foundation World Responsible Leaders Forum in Mexico because gender equality is something I find extremely important and something I am passionate about in my day–to-day life and work and as a woman in South Africa or anywhere, for that matter. The Gender Alliance was the only community-led workshop with a focus on gender so I joined to get a little closer to those global Responsible Leaders who are also passionate about the topic, to collaborate more within the network to start moving the status quo. Its starts with you and me, and if I can change or engage and collaborate with the person next to me on gender-related issues, then we have already taken a huge step in the right direction.

What work do you do to promote gender equality?

Thandi Dyani: I think there are two ways of approaching the work on gender equality: personally and professionally. In my view, one cannot exist if the other is not met. Professionally, I always apply a gender lens. I work with an all-female black-led team at the Impact Hub Johannesburg and I try to create leadership in many ways by empowering my team to become the best they can be without compromising that we are women, by giving them a voice and making them believe in themselves. We have a huge focus on SDG5 ("Gender Equality") at Impact Hub Johannesburg. We just opened an Equality Lounge with SAP Next-Gen in late 2019. We are partnering with UN Women and Google to put the focus on different aspects of gender equality, gender-based violence (GBV), inclusion in the economy and overall value chains, women and youth in entrepreneurship, and so on. We host events to create a platform for these discussions throughout 2020. Likewise we launched a women’s mentorship program called Growing Women. Creating social capital for women entrepreneurs, access to networks, opening doors, and having a support system is really important to succeed. Statistics say that men usually mentor other men, therefore we want to put more focus on women – it’s a place to start where we don’t have to change policy, ask permission, implement quotas, we can just do it! And we are quite agile at Impact Hub Johannesburg and immediately threw an expert mentorship program together.

Thandi Dyani (middle) at the World Responsible Leaders Forum in Mérida, 2019. Marc Beckmann
Street scene captured during the Responsible Leaders Forum Johannesburg, 2019. Erol Gurian

Personally, I also work with my children’s nanny trying to find out more about her life and dreams. I am putting her through school and trying to empower her mind and person on being a mother, on having dreams as a woman in life and work. She is way too smart to just run around taking care of my children in my flat all of her life. So I am trying to change her possibilities. So-called domestic workers in South Africa is a huge problem. They are paid really badly and have no chances of development and usually end up working in the same house from youth to retirement. I am just not a fan! So I am trying to change that in my own little way. On a side hustle – because, yes, there is always a side hustle – I have been a DJ for many years. This has also led to empowering girls by teaching a DJ school for womxn for an NGO. 2020 is also the year where I really hope I will start my project MaBongi, helping urban low-income mothers and babies in the critical first 1,000 days. The project involves midwives, baby nurses, and self-governed mother groups.

SDG #5

SDG #5 Gender Equality

Through Sustainable Development Goal 5 of the UN 2030 Agenda, the international community aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls who represent half of the world’s population and therefore also half of its potential. However, gender inequality persists everywhere and stagnates social progress. Women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of political leadership. Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.

What is your desired outcome of the BMW Foundation Gender Alliance?

Creating impact is a complex issue. We can focus so deeply on one aspect of all the many challenges this world faces and create positive and sustainable impact, and then be completely biased and have that blind spot in other things in our lives, organization, or relations to others. I think this can also be the case even in organizations that work with and for women. So the desired outcome for me is very much to put the focus on the important work that is being done in different sectors and areas where we need intentional work with gender equality: from creating and portraying role models, tackling GBV, inclusive space making, gender bias in tech, financial exclusion, labor market exclusion – basically in areas that are left out but have a need for a gender perspective. But we also need to look deep within the network and the organizations that we each are a part of – do we really promote equality? In regards to this, we are co-creating these 10 steps to equality – a feminist manifesto – and we all live by them, and hopefully let others know and in the end influence our surroundings as well, like a trickle effect. Lastly, I hope it makes different minds come together to collaborate on our individual work on gender equality.

What does an equal world look like?

For me, an equal world is when we do not have to constantly fight for our place or to explain that equality and doing specialized projects to enhance opportunities for women is not a threat to anyone else. When we do not have to look over our shoulder when walking to our transport, or have to think about what we wear and say. When we are not told to act more like men in certain situations to succeed. It’s when the institutionalized structures that suppress women’s prosperity, inclusion, security, sexuality, economy, and possibilities are dismantled.

Any advice to your 15-year-old self?

It’s ok to be different, one day it will work in your favor and it will take you to places of your dreams, physically and mentally! Just be patient!

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