Hot on the heels of being named in the Mail and Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans, I received a call from Verashni Pillay, deputy editor of the Mail and Guardian Online, to inform me that I had also been nominated to this year’s edition of the Book of Women. I am grateful to receive these plaudits but recognise, as well, the millions of hard working women who have done so much more than me without any recognition.
My fervent hope is to become worthy of these plaudits.
As a 13-year-old, social-media extraordinaire and budding Middle East expert Khadija Patel was asked by her English teacher what she wanted to be one day. Her answer — “journalist” — didn’t go down too well. “Do you think journalism is an appropriate job for a woman? A Muslim woman?” the teacher asked.
Thankfully there were others egging her on — including her mother. A mere 14 years later and Patel has already established herself as a voice to be heard in the South African media landscape. She didn’t take the traditional route; she studied English, Arabic and French, and used social media to establish her presence.
An enthusiastic blogger, she honed her skills under the radar while gradually establishing a reputation for herself on Twitter as something of an expert following the Arab Spring. Soon she became the go-to person on the latest news about those and other democratic uprisings taking Africa and the rest of the world by storm.
Her mainstream writing began with an invitation to write for the Mail&Guardian’s blogging platform, Thought Leader. From there it wasn’t long before she was noticed — news and analysis website the Daily Maverick snapped her up as a columnist.
For her, the greatest recognition of her worth as a writer came when she was offered the column with the words: “I’m offering you this job not because you’re black or because you’re a woman, I’m offering you this
job because you’re good at what you do.”
You can access the online version of my profile, as well as browse through the profiles of the likes of Jodi Bieber, Gcina Mhlophe here.