Quick fire 5:
1. Coffee, black or with milk?
With milk. I like Americanos or skinny cappuccinos
2. What is your most used emoji?
3. If you could invite any 3 people to dinner for the night, who would you invite?
Bill (& Melinda) Gates, Michelle (& Barak) Obama, Meghan Markle (& Prince Harry)- Married couples count as 1 person, right?
4. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
5. If there was a movie made about your life, which actress would you choose to play you?
Meghan Markle or Julia Roberts
Could you tell me a little bit about your life right now?
I recently moved to Cape Town from Johannesburg, primarily because of a work opportunity at an NGO called ‘Gold Youth Development Agency’. The NGO focuses on youth development in impoverished communities in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana. They’re looking to scale up and are in the process of registering a Rwandan entity.
They work quite closely with the Minister of Education because their focus is on skills development within the age group of 14-18-year-olds. They go into schools to run skills development programs to ensure that learners stay in school which limits high-risk behavior in the communities. They teach the learners things that have to do with sex education and cover topics about pregnancy, HIV, leadership, showing up in the workplace etc. They teach them skills that ground them and give them hope.
The methodology they follow is a peer-to-peer model. From grade 9, the learners have someone that they call a ‘facilitator intern’, who teaches and mentors them. Once they’ve completed all their modules, they then have the responsibility to go back into the community and start their own focus groups and teach others what they have learnt. Once they’ve gone through all of that, they get an accreditation. If they would like, ‘Gold’ aims to employ them again as trainers. It’s a sustainable, skills development, job creation kind of model.
I was brought in because they want to introduce a business element to it. They found that they had all these young people that they trained, gave hope to and whose hearts had been transformed, but some of them did not end up going to university. Often because they couldn’t afford it or because they didn’t meet the admission requirements. Others did not want to go to university and there are others who could not find work. So, jobs needed to be created.
Youth unemployment is a problem in general, regardless of where you find yourself. What Gold is striving to do, is to create entrepreneurial opportunities for the youth within their own communities. We’ve come up with an enterprising strategy to build businesses in food, security, energy & power as well as in banking, and are trying to find sustainable businesses in those fields where the youth can be self-employed or become employees. This strategy includes training them as entrepreneurs as well as integrating them to be part of the businesses, with Gold as the overseer and partner. We are in the proof-of-concept stage and have identified industry partners in the type of business we’d like to work with, from the farming space to the energy space and we’re currently looking for a banking partner. We need seed-funding that will enable us to collect enough data to say, “This is how we are going to make these businesses profitable; this is how we are going to train our youth.”. So, we are at the stage where we have 2 test sites- one in the Western Cape and one in Mpumalanga. One being urban and the other very rural. I have been brought in to work closely with the team that will be focused on what the business model will look like and I also caretake the finance and governance of the entities. I provide oversight to the financial managers and bookkeeper and that sort of thing.
The move to Cape Town has been an interesting journey. I am settling in and enjoying the space. It’s a beautiful, beautiful city. I think it carries so much hope. Yes, there is so much brokenness, but I enjoy the outdoors, I enjoy the city, I enjoy the beauty. Also, I have found community. I have some established friendships and I have formed some new ones. I am enjoying the details of life.
What gets you up in the morning?
More than anything, the possibility for more! Even though the day-to-day stuff is mundane in the middle of this pandemic, especially having to work alone at home all the time, I get up knowing that there is so much more that can be done with my life! Even if I am doing things that I don’t necessarily enjoy, I know that once it’s done, it’s a step forward. That’s why I get excited to wake up, because I am taking steps toward something. I try to enjoy those small little steps that I feel like are a step forward into doing something really great for our nation.
Could you tell me a little bit about what your life was like growing up?
I was born in the rural Eastern Cape, in Mthatha and spent my early childhood there. I don’t have clear memories of that time, but from what I was told, I was a very inquisitive child, very curious, I asked a lot of questions and I was quite resourceful. My mom told me that when I went to the shops, I would go up to people I would just say things. When I entered a room, I would engage everybody. I was someone who was very outgoing, someone who wanted to engage with people. My first words were “50/50” because I used to watch this documentary called “50/50”. Everyone else’s first words were “mama”, or “dada”, but mine was “50/50.”. Apparently, I could talk before I could walk.
As a woman from a rural area who wasn’t married and had a child, my mom found herself in a very difficult position. She was 25, but back in the day it was like, “How can you have a child out of wedlock?” My dad also wasn’t present, he left when I was very young. So, my mom made the decision to go back to school to study Medicine and become a doctor and provide her children with what she never had. It was so rough for her growing up. She would have to study using the light of a candle and she used to herd sheep and things like that. She made sure that I didn’t have that kind of lifestyle, but in doing so, she had to make the sacrifice to leave me with my aunt. So, I moved in with my aunt in Mthatha.
From Grade 1-3 I was very good at problem solving, music & mathematics, but when I moved, there was quite a huge shift and I became very playful. I always had a very inquiring mind and my aunt says I loved people. I had a heart for people and even if someone made me mad, I wouldn’t hold grudges against them. I had a heart for reconciliation.
What were your dreams when you were younger?
I remember when I was younger, people asked what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted to do something that transformed economies that changed the world. I didn’t know what that meant, especially because I was so playful. By the time I was in grade 9, I wanted to become the Governor of the Reserve Bank and I also wanted to become the Minister of Finance. I was like, “I want to make a difference in the economy, I want to grow businesses, I want to eliminate poverty & inequality!”. I had big desires or dreams, but I don’t think I was in tune with how big my dreams were until now – until I was in my 20s and I realized that those desires that kept on coming up actually meant something.
How has the way your life has panned out so far differed or been similar to those dreams?
I think it’s worthwhile to explore, to make mistakes along the way and to realize that even though you thought things would look a certain way, perhaps you end up wanting something different and it’s okay to go through that journey. I never imagined that I would land up where I am now because I had such a crazy and diverse childhood. There was not one part where it was stable. I learnt from different communities, different cultures. It was challenging, but also very refreshing and it all contributed to the journey that led me to where I am now.
Who was your role model growing up and why?
Martin Luther King Jnr.- I pick him because to some degree, I can relate to him from a values perspective. For me, the reformation and the message of grace and love is very important. That’s the starting point and that was Martin Luther King’s heart. He was also someone who believed in being the best that you can be, no matter where you find yourself. Even if you are called to be a street sweeper, you can do that really well. Sometimes life is really tough, but if you can just show up, that makes the difference. Also, his belief of us all being on the same boat- We don’t know how we got here, but we’re all here, so we need to ensure that we work together. I appreciate his message of Christ his savior, of being purposeful wherever you find yourself, of us being able to live together and work together and create society that works for all of us and that we all have the responsibility to work towards that. The way he used his life to serve, I really appreciate that.
What personal challenge(s) did you face as a young person and how have those shaped you?
Between the age of 9-13, is where my ‘daddy issues’ started to translate quite gravely. Not having parents around and just growing up with aunts, was tough in its own way. By the time I tried to live with my mom later on, we weren’t connecting well and I wasn’t gelling well at school either. I was playful and I had a low self-esteem. I didn’t feel like I had much direction in life, I didn’t feel purposeful. The brokenness I experienced from fatherlessness had started to translate. I took a turn at the age of 13 when I realized that I could work hard and study. I was innately good at maths and music and when I saw that I was doing well, it motivated me to keep on going. So, I started working. In high school I was all about my books and I developed a good routine.
I went from a society in primary school (in East London) where there would be 5-8 of us who were black in a class of 25 learners, to high school (in Pretoria) where we were all black in class. I was the only Xhosa person though. I experienced what you call the ‘systematic racial injustices’ that people speak of, when I was in primary school and then I experienced ‘culturalism’ when I was in high school. I realized that it’s a human-heart thing. Whatever space you find yourself in, human hearts are going to perceive you in a certain way. The perceptions that I experienced played quite a bit on my confidence, but these experiences also shaped a lot of my confidence today. I realized that wherever you find yourself, people will always put a lens on you, but the only lenses that matter are the lenses that you put on yourself.
I really do appreciate all these experiences because they speak a lot about my purpose and to the things that I want to do. I see the problems and the brokenness around me now and it’s something that I see as an opportunity. I feel that I have a responsibility to fight for justice and play a role in changing certain systems. I realize have been created to be a problem- solver in that space.
Has education played a positive role in your life and if so, how?
It’s played a pivotal role! I am thankful to come from a family who has valued education so much. I grew up with my mom’s side of the family where my grandfather prioritized education for every single one of his children because he had to drop out when he was in grade 4. My grandmother was also a teacher by the age of 18. As a result, my mom made sure we were well educated, regardless of how much she had. When I was in grade 4, we wouldn’t even be able to afford to buy bread, but she made sure that I was at school. She was an intern, working on 1 salary, trying to support the entire family, but she made sure that I got the best education from when I was in pre-primary. She made sure I went to good, reputable schools. You can have innate abilities, you can be intelligent and smart, but I believe training and development are extremely valuable! From pre-primary to primary to high school to university, I have really had great experiences and they have opened up so many doors for me!
How do you use your current platform to create a positive influence for young women in SA?
My passion is to deal with things like gender-based violence, to deal with issues that we are currently facing. My biggest desire is to create opportunities for those who are marginalized. For example, a friend and I have started a company where we are creating a platform for people who have certain skills and are looking for opportunities to use those skills and we facilitate these opportunities for them. It’s about taking what we have and creating a platform for women to become something professionally. We have girls who are at pop-up green houses, we have women who are leading others. It’s about being able to create opportunities for women to be providers as well. I appreciate being able to create opportunities for women who want to work.
What are you still hoping to accomplish in the next couple of years?
As you know, South Africa is the most unequal nation. We’ve seen this in the Time magazine. Cape Town shows this inequality so clearly. It’s a place of two extremes. With that said, I really believe that we can bridge the gaps, it just takes the will to do so. That’s my hope. This is a place that really requires bridges across classes, across races, across gender lines, across everything. It might be a very broken space, but it offers the opportunity to bridge. I just hope I have the heart to continue. It has its challenges, but my prayer is that my season here is very purposeful and that not only does it fill me and my cup, but that I can also have an impact.
What piece of advice would you give to the young women of South Africa?
First and foremost, take the time to learn about yourself, to really truly learn about yourself – your personality, the things you enjoy, your strengths and your weaknesses. Really take the time to be self-aware. Take time to understand and determine your values as a person because there is so much happening out there. We live in a world of social media. We live in a world of so much injustice that you can be driven by so many different things and if you are driven by those external things, you will experience things like body pressure, you’ll face racial prejudices, the world will tell you that you need to look a certain way. I believe that when you try to subscribe to what the world is telling you to look like, it is very detrimental to you in the long run.
I’d encourage you to really take time to understand yourself and your personality, your strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and to be comfortable in your own skin! To own that and to own who you were created to be! To reach the level of owning who you were created to be, so that you are able to move in your purpose. Each and every one of us has a purpose and has been created for something that someone else cannot do. For some it comes earlier than others, we all have different journeys. It’s important to have your blinkers on and learn about yourself and evaluate your ‘why’ and why you’ve been created and that it’ll be different to the next person’s ‘why’. Just because it looks a certain way for that person, doesn’t mean you have to go by that, you can go by what you have been created to do. You have a purpose, you have a voice, and your voice matters regardless of what platform you find yourself on!
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