The Invisible Women

There are women who have their names in history books, we learn about them, respect them and remember them. There are women who have achieved great things in various spheres of life and we salute them. There are women who shine brightly and inspire many; accolades and awards are handed to them.


There are women whose stories remain untold.

They will remain nameless and faceless to most people. They may not fit into a certain mould that do exist (let’s not deny this!), the beautiful stunning group, the super intelligent group, the “in” group, the ultra- fashionable group, you know those groups the same ones you don’t crack a nod too.

If they are lucky they may get a side note. There are no narratives written about them. These women are just as important. The ones we are all guilty of overlooking. Quietly these women have been leaving their mark on lives maybe not in the way you recognise a “mark”. They are hardly the show stopper. No one pays close attention to them, because like most things in life, they are taken for granted.

It is the woman who cleans your office restrooms, it’s the lady in the queue ahead of you fidgeting to find that R2 to afford that loaf of bread, because her children are depending on her, she is the lady who is sweeping your streets whilst you are in slumber land at 4am. She is the cashier at the local supermarket who is running to catch that taxi to get home by 9pm because she also wants to kiss her kids goodnight. She’s the woman in the café who is making the sandwich which you will grab on your way to your meeting. The woman who cleans your coffee spill and greets you, you do not notice her as you are engrossed in pointless banter. The “aunty” who toils away in the take-away kitchen to make sure you get that curry in your roti. It’s the gogo who has worked loyally for your family for years.

Women! Overlooked, Ignored; and Invisible to most ….

So today I salute the community of invisible women. Being invisible is not a curse. It’s a blessing. So many of us have tasted invisibility like you; there are more of invisibles than you think, I am also invisible like you. I have my moments of sunshine, but most times I am in the same matrix like you.

I may not fully understand in entirety what it feels like, or maybe the transition takes a bit more adjusting for a person like me. Living in the shadows is not as bad as some may view it as. We get to simply BE! We don’t have to fit in, we need not succumb to the pressures of all that society expects us to be. We are shadow dancers. You get to see things most people don’t, you get to appreciate the small things that most overlook. No matter where you are, no matter what you do; you are powerful beyond measure, because you represent humanity. You are a Phenomenal Woman!!

Because you are a mother – you have sheltered beings within ourselves in a unique experience giving birth to humanity. You assist in a child’s first steps, you nurture and helps it grow, and you are an anchor as this child makes its way along the journey of life.

Because you are a wife – you share your life with your partner unselfishly with love and service. You give more than is expected and don’t expect much in return.

Because you are a sister, a daughter – you are the heart of a family.

Because you are that amazing friend – you bring the richness of sensitivity, intuitiveness, generosity and loyalty to the life of another woman

Because you are that single working mother – an inspiration to your child/children, they look at you; see determination, resilience, a fighter and a survivor.

Because you are “worker bee”, the less “glamourous” yet critical roles in life – you represent the thousands who make an indispensable contribution to society as a whole.

We are together a sisterhood which we should be proud to belong too; and we never fail even though invisible to still recognise those who are right up there. We can say Thank you, to every woman, for the simple fact that we are woman! 

This article is to remind those women who are soaring like eagles to never forget that once upon a time, you did need help to soar, maybe that same woman sacrificed in order to see you take flight.

Pay it forward – help your fellow woman, support her; stand by her; let her rise above by never putting her down. She may just be a caterpillar to you but she is morphing into a beautiful butterfly. Let sunlight touch her too. Just that act of your womanhood may enrich her life, but will enrich your life more. These unsung women make our world habitable even though they are in the shadows without them our sweet life maybe a bit bitter.

“Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly,

without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”

Maya Angelou

About Saffiya Ismail

Born in Pietermaritzburg, she now resides in Johannesburg and says her most important role in life is being a mother. Saffiya is a freelance writer. A contributing author in “Riding the Samoosa Express” (Anthology launched 21st March 2015). With a second chapter submitted for the next book, Saffiya says her passion is writing.