I share my influence as a professional because I want to mentor and encourage young girls and women to build a career and find a profession at which they can excel. I started out with very humble beginnings in a poor township, but my career path and success is an example to show all young women that they can become whatever they want through hard work, that they must be confident and take on challenges and opportunities and not be afraid to dream and strive for great things. I mentor young women and teach them that having a profession will keep poverty away, it will enable them to make free choices in their lives, provide for their children, avoid or leave any kind of abusive relationship and be independent. Having a career helps women to open doors to diverse opportunities, to build their confidence, profile and their own sphere of influence. I believe that as a successful professional woman it is my role to mentor and build young girls and women into the CEOs, Scientists, Entrepreneurs, Leaders and mothers of tomorrow. Mothers who will raise strong daughters and sons who will appreciate and respect women, and in- so-doing build better societies for all. Too many disadvantaged young girls and women live without hope for the future and don’t believe in themselves because they do not have strong women “superheroes” in their lives, and I want to help change their lives.
When I was a young girl growing up in a poor township, I did not have much in the way of material things. I did not have a barbie doll, fancy toys or even a bicycle and my parents never owned a car. But I was surrounded by amazing strong professional women who set a good example for me and mentored me, starting with my mother, female teachers, my aunties and later on my team leaders at work and then my managers and I even had the honour of working for a female Ambassador in Paris. All these women played an important role in making me who I am today. By following in their footsteps, studying and working hard, today I am an accomplished international marketing expert. My influence as a professional marketer has given me access to networks that have enhanced my work results and I have also been able to develop my profile as a public speaker at international conferences, where I speak on marketing, Nation Branding, but sometimes I am simply invited to come and speak to inspire participants at these events.
It has allowed me to do what I love best, communicate and share ideas and experiences with people, inspire others and play a positive role in the lives of other women.
I live my life with a passion in all I do, with respect and professionalism and at all times with generosity of spirit and compassion for fellow human beings. “No human being is destined for greatness. Greatness is achieved through hard work and humility”.
I was born in Exile denied the right to live in South Africa because of Apartheid. Whilst this was hard, it also provided me with opportunities that I would not have had if I were born and raised in South Africa. So, there is always a positive side to everything. I grew up in very humble settings in a township in Zambia, but I will not say we were poor because we always had food to eat and we were spoilt with love, affection and education. So, I had a happy childhood. However, I told myself that I needed to get out of that environment and build a better future. I did this by working hard at school and obtaining a scholarship to my University studies in France. This scholarship was a real dream come true for a young girl who grew up wearing secondhand clothes donated by the Red Cross and playing barefoot in the dusty township streets. I seized the opportunity and never looked back. The biggest challenges were the culture shock at first for France was not as warm and welcoming as I imagined, and I really missed home. When I finished my first BA Degree, my scholarship ended, and I had to find other means to finance the rest of my studies. I could not go back to Zambia because the ANC had been unbanned and South Africans had gone back to South Africa. However, the new government was not yet in place and only my father could return to the country. He first had to prove that I was his child before I could go to South Africa. It was a very stressful time. I needed money for food and rent and would sometimes eat just bread and margarine for an entire week. Then I got a job cleaning peoples houses and later as an au pair. The hardest job was probably picking grapes to raise enough money to go back to school. I don’t think I have ever had so much back pain in my life. But with all my little jobs, I managed to get enough money to do my Degree in International Relations and then moved back to South Africa to start my career. It was a tough journey, but a wonderful lesson in how much you can achieve through hard work. Thanks to my education my very first job was a great job. I was employed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and started my career as a diplomat at the SA Embassy in Paris.
In my early career. I was entrusted with organizing all PR and events for President Nelson Mandela’s first Official Visit to France in 1996. In the short space of time in this job I had build a network of contacts in the press and media and across international and local organisations in Paris, which made it possible for me to organize and coordinate a very successful and well attended press conference and a welcome event at the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry for over a thousand guests.
In 2013, whilst I was the Country Manager for SA Tourism in France, I succeeded to convince 30 French journalists and news anchors to travel with me to visit South Africa. It was an innovative approach, where I offered them to meet South Africans from sectors they were interested in, as well as ordinary South Africans to allow them to develop a more informed image of the country. The trip went so well that SA Tourism was able to organize a second one after I had left to return to work in SA. Being a professional is not just about a career, it is also the way you work and treat people. It is this approach that has helped me build my influence and networks. I have a passion for building relations with people and for connecting people.
In October 2018, I and my team from Brand South Africa were instrumental in organizing President Cyril Ramaphosa’s first South Africa Investment Conference in Johannesburg, which raised R 290 Billion in investment for the country. The build up to the conference was 6 months of hard work, planning and using networks of influence including the WEF Davos platform, which enabled us to confirm founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, as the keynote speaker for the event.
In 2017 I started to do some mentoring and dedicating time to a group of girls who had been rescued from child trafficking. I set up a network of women to assist in mentoring the girls, helping them with schoolwork, giving motivational talks and being big sisters to them. It has been a journey and the metric group passed their exams. But I would not call this an achievement. I believe that these brave young ladies gave me as much as I gave them.
My greatest achievement and creation are my two beautiful children, whom I have been able to raise with strong values of respect, compassion and hard work.
Women will continue to face resistance from men who are not ready to see them as equals in the workplace. To them I say stand tall. Rome was not built in a day. Even if you have to work twice as hard as a man, it is worth it and through your struggles you will make things easier for the future for your daughters and generations of women to come. To them I would say, always support each other as women. Mentor and grow the talent of younger women and when you climb the ladder of success, leave the ladder in place, so that other women can follow. Create opportunities for other women.
The other challenge women will continue to face is the one at home where they are sometimes mothers, wives or single mothers and still work and be professionals. To them I say, it can be done with good planning, balance and support structures. You don’t need to do it alone. Surround yourself with other women and help each other.
I believe that professional women can make a great contribution to improving the conditions of women all over the world because they have something to say and can use professional platforms in business or government to pass on crucial messages and change public opinion on issues affecting women. To give you an example, I was invited to speak at an international conference in Morocco in July as a Brand expert. I was asked to inspire the plenary through examples of amazing Brands in Africa. So, I gave a talk on Africa’s most extraordinary brand – The African Woman! And in my talk, I explained how women contribute to building the continent and are the powerhouses of Africa, but then how little respect they get from the men who are their bosses, husbands and fathers of their children. I explained that men need to make these issues their problems because these women are their mothers, sisters and daughters.
As women and mothers, we also need to look at what we can do to change our plight, and I think it starts by raising our sons to be better men. Men that respect us, that protect us and value our contribution to society. We are the first to bond with, mould and influence the young boys that we raise, so let us take this task very seriously.