WomensMonth: Maintaining that fine balance

File: Cannabis yoga is being punted as combining a peaceful mind with a peaceful body.

File: Cannabis yoga is being punted as combining a peaceful mind with a peaceful body.

CAPE TOWN - Jennifer Thorpe is one of the inspiring people featured in eNCA&39;s Women&39;s Month series of profiles.

Jennifer, currently the editor at FeministsSA.com, is a feminist writer and researcher, she focusses on gender-based and sexual violence against women.

After spending a few years collecting stories of first hand accounts by ordinary women, for her My First Time blog, she was able to see the project through as a published book, "My First Time: Stories of of Sex and Sexuality from Women like You".

eNCA caught up with Jennifer after her return from a writing workshop in Uganda.


You were recently in Uganda. How did you find the space for women to tell their stories compared to South Africa?

I was in Uganda for the first AWDF and FEMRITE African women&39;s creative non-fiction writing workshop. It was a life-changing space - almost 30 feminist women writing each day and sharing their stories. So it was a really special kind of environment where everyone gave each other the time and space to say what they needed to say.

We were also privileged to attend two events organised by the Uganda Women Writers association (FEMRITE) in Kampala. It felt as though writing, and in particular &39;women&39;s writing&39; was alive. I think that South Africa could definitely benefit from a women&39;s writers organisation (if there is one, I don&39;t know about it), but I think that both countries share a sense of the power of women&39;s writing and stories.

If you weren&39;t a writer what else would you be doing?

If I wasn&39;t a writer...wow. It took me a long time to say that I was a writer at all. My day job is actually as a women&39;s rights researcher, which can be really interesting. But if I wasn&39;t a writer myself I would still want to be working with women&39;s stories and writing - so maybe a publisher or an editor.

Which part of your work is the most rewarding, and which parts are the most disheartening?

One of the most rewarding things about my work as a writer is the time to reflect on the world around me. Whether I&39;m writing fiction or non-fiction, writing is a channel to relive some experiences and process them, or recreate new futures when I&39;m writing fiction. It&39;s incredibly creative and stimulating.

The disheartening part of it is obviously that much of my writing is about sexual violence in South Africa, and when you&39;re writing and thinking about that all the time it can be traumatic. Not much progress seems to have been made lately, and there is a sense that things are getting slowly worse for women. So sometimes I feel like "wow, will we ever get anywhere in this fight." But at the workshop in Uganda recently, Wanja Maina (our daily proverb provider) said "Just because you&39;ve planted a tree, doesn&39;t mean you&39;ll get to sit in its shade," which reminded me that I&39;m not only writing about these issues for me or for my contemporaries. I&39;m writing because I hope that my words will help shape a better future.

Practicing yoga is important to you. How does this make a difference in your life?

Yoga is such a big part of my life because it is time where I am unable to think about anything else. It forces you to concentrate on your breathing, to feel both physical and emotional tension in your body, and to let it go. Yoga reminds you that you might not be in control of everything, and that worrying about things that you can&39;t control is unnecessary and harmful. It forces you to identify what you can change, and to work with that.

The great thing about yoga is that it is always a practice - you are never a &39;perfect&39; yogi, so eventually you stop worrying about being perfect, and you just experience it as you are. I think that all of these skills are valuable in real life, and I think they&39;ve helped me a great deal. I&39;ve learned to bend and be flexible, rather than break or be rigid (or at least to try). It is also lots of fun and a great workout - especially in a heated studio.

Which childhood memories have made the greatest impact on you?

I think the memories I have of friendship - of being with friends and of sometimes not having to say anything, but knowing that someone understands you. I guess for me these memories helped me to understand how important stories are and how knowing someone&39;s story can help you to support them and be there for them, even in the silent ways.

One other one that I always laugh about is the time I started a petition at high school so that we could include French in our cultural evening. I walked around to nearly everyone in my dining room at supper and convinced them that it was essential that we have one, even though they might not understand it. I remember the thrill of trying to change something, and I think I still get that thrill now when I&39;m writing about women&39;s rights - the idea that something I do might be able to make things better for women in South Africa drives me.

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