Born to inspire

There is nothing uninspiring about Shakira Arend’s spirit.
The 33-year-old mother of three only knows how to get things done. 

While she has had to endure a life more extraordinary than most, Arend may have finally found her true calling – inspiring others publicly.
Burnt in a freak accident at seven months old, Arend has had extensive rehabilitation done to her arms and face, while losing four fingers in the process.
“When I went for the government disability grant they said I have two opposable thumbs, so I am not considered disabled. It is never an insult, it is never awkward, only with small-minded people,” says Arend about her physical appearance. 

This has hardly stopped people from slinging abuse her way throughout her life, but this has driven her to pursue everything she felt she has needed in life.
This show of strength allowed her to give her perspective last week on bullying, in particular cyber bullying, to which she has been subjected.
“What happened was when the (Facebook) post came on about being bullied, and women who felt fat and ugly, but when I looked at them I saw no physical deformities. I just got so fed up and thought that I have been struggling forever with being bullied and victimised, but I never put myself in a position where I felt the need to point out that I was bullied,” she says.
Even posting her response did not stop other women from hurling abuse her way yet again.
“This lady said to me that when she looks at me I am a turn-off and she asked what my husband sees in me. I don’t usually care what they think of me, but it actually struck a nerve. She doesn’t know me from a bar of soap, but they have the audacity to tell me that I am a burnt hood-rat and ask what my husband sees in me and that I am a turn-off based on their own perceptions,” Arend adds.

Arend’s post was intended to encourage women to embrace their inadequacies and not allow other people to take their own power away from them, particularly because she is going through life without letting her physical appearance stop her from living her life. The post quickly garnered support from other women on the “Mamahood Cape Town” group and soon went viral on the popular social network last week, where she was even prompted to step forward and give a motivational talk.

“I was so excited that I had to share it with someone, and she said the same thing – why am I allowing that woman (to say those things)? I told her that I did not allow her to say anything to me, because she said it already. It is her right (to speech), but now through her words, it allowed me to open up after 33 years later about how I felt,” says Arend, who encourages women to speak out about the things they fear the most.

“What I can say is a bully is someone who has low self-esteem. Their egos are already so small, so they need to do something to make them feel better. The only way they see they can do that is by picking on somebody else that they feel threatened by. So before you are going to do anything to me or take away my power, I am going to take away your power (to hurl abuse),” she says.

Arend realises that while it is not always easy to overcome certain levels of abuse, women can inspire one another by performing random acts of kindness instead of seeking to bring one another down.

“When you are standing in line at a shop, compliment the lady in front. You might not feel good about yourself, but you made that person feel good about themselves. They will go away feeling inspired. It is about the little things in life that we don’t look at. That is what is important. I cannot express enough that it is totally up to you to see that and to make that change,” says Arend.

Arend’s cousin, Zulfaa Arend, says there’s no such thing as “can’t” with Shakira.

“Her whole persona, she is a very strong person. There were simple things I would watch her do. For women – if people should know her personally, the things she goes through and does daily, that would speak for itself. She’s always ready to help, she has a heart of gold. Always ready to push you in the right direction – funnily enough always giving the right advice at the right time. That is the type of person she is. When it comes to empowering women, the person that she is, she is very eager to help the next person­.”