Saturday, 09 January 2016 23:48

Following the calling to fight for women’s equality 

Magda Zenon Magda Zenon

Growing up in South Africa with her Cypriot family, Magda Zenon has never been one to sit at home and watch injustice being inflicted. While she describes herself as fearless, she says her parents were constantly worried about her safety as she was involved in the fight against apartheid from the age of 12. 

She came to Cyprus in 2000 via Rhodes were she was married for 17 years. A choice she never regretted as she found it a safe place to raise her son and it turns out a place that offers much motivation and work for the righteous woman.  

I met Magda via Facebook and then later on at one of the events I had organized. We have since been in regular contact and have attended several events together. Whenever I am in Nicosia I make sure I can fit in a chat with her, always finding her positivity and directness very refreshing.  

An activist at heart 

She never saw herself as a ‘local’ but fought for an international community from an early age, always defending the underdog.  “My family thought I’d outgrow my desire to be an activist,” she laughs “but I never did”.  

She studied International Relations and Law and worked in publishing while in South Africa. While in Rhodes, Greece she worked in the travel industry. When she arrived in Cyprus, things fell into place right away too, she recounts. A car, a school for her son and a job with a newspaper that had just started up - all came her way during the first week, assuring her she had come to the right place. 

A wide range of involvement 

Since then she has been involved in a myriad of projects, holding salaried jobs that still allow time for activism which keeps her ‘fired’ as she says. 

In 2001 Magda was one of the founding members of the ground-breaking and island-wide women’s NGO ‘Hands Across the Divide’ which initiated grassroots advocacy and conducted gender- and peace-related research with the vision of integrating gender equality in the Cypriot peace process and beyond. Her work with the NGO started her involvement in the Cyprus women’s movement in earnest. 

She has attended innumerable workshops and conferences on gender equality, lobbying skills, social media skills, and various women’s issues. She was the assistant coordinator of ‘Cypriot Women in Dialogue’, a committee member of ‘Women from the 5 Communities of Cyprus’, the organiser of a seminar entitled ‘Gender Relations’, a participant in the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) project related to the ‘Property Provisions of the Annan Plan’ and a participant in a project entitled ‘Gender Capacity Building’. She has been a coordinator of 6 Youth Peace Camps in Cyprus and Turkey and an officer of the Cyprus Women’s Lobby (CWL) since 2008 and of the Gender Advisory Team (GAT) since 2009. 

Women’s activism - needed more than ever 

According to Magda, women’s activism is much needed in Cyprus “Most people tend to be complacent, with many women sticking to their comfort zones. Quite often they simply have no idea what a difference the involvement of women makes”. 

Magda herself is involved in many groups - she lives and breathes equality and especially gender equality. She uses Facebook and Twitter extensively to make people more aware and finds the internet a true blessing for those who want to speak up. She agrees with the common saying that ‘Social media has put women activists on steroids’.  

Community radio empowering women

Another blessing for Magda and the over 150 women who have been her guests, is the weekly radio show ‘Kaleid’HER’scope’, a show she started hosting in 2013 as part of MYCY’s online community radio in order to give women a voice in the most literal sense. In her show, she discusses all aspects of women’s lives welcoming those who have a concern, need help, want to share info, a skill or talent or an idea. 

Striving to give more power at the grassroots level  

Magda feels that despite the advantages that social media has brought to women, Cyprus is still lagging behind in many ways, especially at the grassroots level. Women often have no voice at all or believe their opinion is not of value. Even if they do want to speak up, they don’t know where they can be heard. 

Elitism however does very much exist - especially in women’s circles which are often built on a total comfort zone in which they are unaware of the lower, less privileged levels of society. Making people aware of the need to mainstream gender at all levels of society is one of this activist’s goals.

Spirituality - a much needed foundation for women’s activism 

Another area Magda is working on is the connecting of spirituality and activism. “Currently the ‘bridge’ is missing,” she says. “In order to be able to understand their own needs, be leaders in their fields, an inspiring example to their peers, women need to be okay with themselves. They need to be okay with their bodies and their sexuality and truly understand their value at a spiritual level as well as at a ‘practical’ level.” 

The pieces of the puzzle are starting to fit 

At a personal level, Magda feels she is reaching that stage. Her tireless work for the betterment of women’s lives has connected her with many people. She knows where she needs to be and is optimistic about what lies ahead. “It’s a calling and I trust I am being led in the right direction to be able to be more effective in promoting women’s power in its true sense.”

Magda can be contacted via her Facebook profile, the Kaleid’HER’scope page  or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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