August 3, 2020

#ChallengeAccepted: What’s Next?

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Hanganani Nleya

Over the past week, Zimbabwean women took part in yet another challenge that has been trending the world over. One couldn’t navigate across social media platforms without coming across a black and white photo of a female with the caption “#Challenge Accepted”.

I was one of the people who were confused at first as I did not understand where this trend originated from and why it was being done. The challenge circulated like chain mail.

Participants were nominating at least one other woman (and often several) to post their own black-and-white portrait. A number of my colleagues, friends and family were part of this #ChallengeAccepted trend and this led me to do some bit of research.

This is not the first time social media platform users have leveraged black-and-white selfies in support of a vague cause. Back in 2016, black-and-white photos with the caption #Challenge Accepted were meant to spread a message of “cancer awareness.” Over the years the photo trend has also been used to “spread positivity.”

This time around, the goal of this trend was to help women promote and instil a sense of positive energy, as Bulisile Mguni, one of the participants put it across.

“I too was a bit confused as I started seeing it until I was challenged by a friend to participate. I voluntarily took part because it is a noble idea for women to stand together and support each other,” said Mguni.

Charity Ruzvidzo shared the same sentiments as Mguni and encouraged women to support each other beyond hashtags.

“The motive behind the challenge is good. We are finding creative ways to speak with one voice from different parts of the world. However we need to support each other beyond hashtags.

“We are living in hard times, the pandemic hit us and life has changed. Women have had to adapt and seek ways to support their families. Many have resorted to buying and selling. Car boots have turned to mini-markets and homes have become supermarkets and social media is being used to market these endeavours.’

“Supporting each other’s hustles must be a priority. Basic liking, commenting and sharing of a fellow woman’s business may go a long way in boosting their sales,” said Ruzvidzo.

While many of the posts tagged #ChallengeAccepted make it difficult to determine how the challenge started or what it’s supposed to achieve, at least 3 million posts have accumulated under the hashtag.

Just like most challenges that pop up on social media, this one has also received its fair share of mockery and ridicule. It has become a subject of debate and quite a number of memes have been generated to go along the #ChallengeAccepted trend.

To counter the ridicule and mockery, some women have taken the challenge a notch higher as they are now challenging each other to post a black and white image whilst donning a graduation gown.

Gillian Chisoro, a media and society studies graduate and her friends have accepted this challenge which for some reason or another is yet to trend like its predecessor.

“After the previous challenge, there has been several criticisms especially from men, hence we decided to show that we are not empty vessels. We are beautiful and we have brains,” said Chisoro.

Debra Hlabangana gave a different take to the whole #ChallengeAccepted concept and bemoaned how women are not real with each other.

Taking to Facebook, Hlabangana said, “there is nothing so piercing like hate from women you actually admire. The pulling down is just unbearable and when you see women actively cheering on others, it’s questionable, you’d roll your eyes and cuss really. Pretentious!

It’s sad. Truly sad – our greatest pain as women and girls has come from our own species than the opposite” read the post.

Judging from the comments, most of the respondents shared the same sentiments with Hlabangana and said they hope the situation will change for the better.

One wonders whether the motives behind the trend were genuine or they were just a temporary fling that often encompasses most social media trends. As time moves forward, let’s wait and see how women will support and stand in solidarity with each other.

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