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Multilingualism and women’s empowerment

Cynthia Marivate

It is ironical for me to write on women’s empowerment and language, when women are the “custodians” of language by virtue of nurturing babies from birth. This role involves also ensuring that babies get language at that early age and the conversation between mother and child throughout the formative stages lead to a child’s linguistic acquisition skills.

Nevertheless, in South Africa today, the principle of multilingualism is enshrined in the Constitution as one of the pillars of democracy. The challenges of defining and implementing the philosophy of multilingualism should be seen by women as an opportunity to contribute to the democratic ideals of South Africa and a tool to empower themselves and other people. This can be realised in a variety of ways:

  1. Creating language industries.
  2. Exploring technology as a way of empowering local languages, and in turn themselves.

Creating language industries can happen through establishing translation and interpreting companies; publishing houses (even from home); writing courses and workshops; scriptwriting for television, radio and film and theatre, etc. The opportunities are limitless.

In terms of exploring technology, this will assist in bridging the digital divide between men and women and see more women venture into IT in this country. Language computer programmes for teaching languages; learners’ support materials; children’s stories on CD ROM, electronic books; multilingual songs on CD; cooking books in various languages on CD-ROM; websites — multilingual for women across cultures to exchange ideas, experiences etc.

Women as leaders of society — be it as mothers, sisters, wives, professionals — should use their skills to explore their latent skills through multilingual projects.

boontoe


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