I am my sister's keeper!

LONDON - All too often, the feminist promise of sisters supporting each other does not reflect reality. I mean you do have the choice to either compete with the woman sitting next to you or to support her and do something together. Yes the choice to root for each other.

I always wonder why women have a tendency to be jealous and competitive. Is life not just easier if we all realised that positivity is more productive? In my adult life I have encountered many different types of women. Though the experiences have been both negative and positive, there is one overriding lesson I have learnt in both cases:'' 'Encourage and support people, it becomes contagious as others pay it forward''.

(From left to right) British Accessory Designer Dorota Stumpf, Pam Samasuwo Nyawiri, Zimbo red carpet presenter Latoya and ZIWA host Moillah Mudamburi

Last Saturday I attended the first Zimbabwe International Women's Awards (ZIWA) held in Birmingham, United Kingdom. The awards are meant to celebrate and honour successful Zimbabwean women. The essence of the awards was to highlight women who have ''made a contribution to our community'' from all industries. So you can understand how honoured I felt at just being a nominee for the fashion designer of the year award.

As I sat there ''people watching'', I was overcome with an overwhelming sense of joy. What I saw in the awards venue was beyond magical. There was a true atmosphere of sisterhood, and a genuine cheer-leading of one woman to the other. Seeing so many faces that I had only seen as profile pictures on Facebook, made me realise that we had the power and ability to turn the internet into a place where we can support each other’s endeavours. It was taking place right before my eyes.

Accepting 'Fashion Designer of the year' award later that night was very emotional. This year has been incredible for me. I have been nominated for International awards, and awarded some, but it was special ....so special to win the ZIWA award because I was getting recognition from fellow Zimbabweans. The adage - ''It is a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together''- just about sums me up!

There are a few people I have been watching online whom I feel are doing their part to elevate Zimbabwean women and it was inspiring to finally meet the young ladies in person. I particularly relished my encounter with the beautiful Porsha Makoni Chakanya, the founder of the Facebook page 'Zim Girls Killing it' which has over 30 000 followers.

The Facebook page was started in 2013 to create a platform for Zimbabwean women to share fashion and beauty tips. The page has often faced criticism from 'nay sayers' who feel that it is not a true representation of ''Zim Girls Style'. It has always been my viewpoint that people have different perspectives of style and that it is important to have a balanced view. The criticism has not deterred Porsha who is currently launching an online boutique and a clothing store in Zimbabwe.

Mel Chimedza

Another of my favourite ladies on the night was our very own Mel Chimedza from the 'Daily News 263 Style Panel', who was nominated for the 'Blogger of the year award'. Although she did not win the award, Mel was very elegant and supportive of the person who won. She wore a classical Greek goddess dress, which spoke volumes about her love for fashion; a passion she says she inherited from her father who was into fashion.

All in all the event was very well organised and surpassed anything ever done in the UK community by Zimbabweans. It made me realise the importance of making women appreciate the importance of visibility and equality amongst themselves.

Porsha Makoni Chakanya

It was empowering to see women stepping up and claiming a higher level of entitlement while at the same time rejecting 'cultural ideologies' based on a starvation diet of invisibility and silence! True, women have long learnt how to survive on a little.

But what we are not yet good at is acknowledging how awful it feels to be criticised, unsupported, and ignored by other women.

It feels like the ultimate betrayal. Women have said that it feels worse than being criticised or rejected by a man because that is what they expect from men.

They don't expect it from their sisters. For women to flourish, we need to band together. The saying "together we stand, divided we fall" is true. Together we are a force to be reckoned with.

At the end of the day, you cannot burn thousands. It creates a ripple effect that invokes fear around being your own person and speaking out. ZIWA just took that fear away. I am indeed my sister’s keeper! YES!

Pamela is a Zimbabwean fashion journalist and fashion accessory designer based in the United Kingdom. She can be contacted on pamsamasuwo@live.co.uk

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