neo_stratStrategic Planning Director, Neo Makhele, is a storyteller and budding cultural curator. She has a passion for insights and shares her thoughts on what women want.

Aretha Franklin said it over 40 years ago and it still rings true today. R-e-s-p-e-c-t. Women in South Africa want respect. Although women have their freedoms enshrined in the constitution, they have to fight to seize their respect – a tension due to an evolving patriarchal society. That is what the Bree Street taxi rank miniskirt march was about.

Unfortunately this essential right to respect threatens the masculine identity. But should it really? Why is it that women who raise our society’s children, who keep the homes we live in, who are key contributors to our economy and culturally perceived as the foundational rocks of our community have to battle to gain respect? Can our society not hear their cry? “Respect me. See me as an individual, not past me at what I am wearing. Acknowledge the value I bring to our societal narrative – understand that I have not come to take from you but to add to what we have. Hear the view  I bring – it may be flowery, but it is just as valid and will add to a unified view.  Understand that my gaining the respect  in no way diminishes your own.”

It is interesting that 20 years into our democracy, and one that has spoken the loudest about the advancement of women, that respect is still the unheard cry by SA women. Women, according to Faith Popcorn’s Eveolution study, buy or influence the purchase of 80% of all consumer goods. In South Africa they buy both the small stuff and the big stuff. They purchase 94% of all home furnishings, influence 80% of all car sales and 60% of new car sales are attributed to them.

According in to Nielsen’s Women of Tomorrow global study of 2011, women control the majority of purchasing decisions in a household and their influence is growing. They are are worth it.

As storyteller and strategist, I have come to understand that societal tensions create fertile ground for ideas and  stories that matter and last. So this societal tension provides an opportunity for brands to engage in authentic dialogue with South African women. Respect means understanding, engaging and reflecting our varied voices, like this Kotex ad does:

Brands need to see the diverse roles they have and reflect their needs. Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty spoke to this insight – it embraced diverse definitions of beauty and femininity.

1st for women reflects a sassiness in women – quite a fresh depiction of strength. And Sprite Zero embrace the alpha female without making any excuse.

Respect her. It is okay for women to define themselves.

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