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BWA Regional Achiever Awards Ceremony

Jul 28, 2016

Good evening ladies and gentlemen

The Gauteng BWA regional chairperson Mrs Nobuntu Webster, the national BWA executive, Mrs Matshepo Msibi , esteemed guests, sponsors and most importantly regional achiever awards finalists. It is my distinct honour to be standing here in front of you today. We live in exciting and challenging times and it is clear that ours time has come to rise to varied yet very important challenges. I would also like to make special mention of my parents who are here to support me tonight, they have never heard me speak in my 18-year career.

INTRODUCTION

Today, we’re here to celebrate women of substance, women who achieve and succeed against all odds. I’m particularly proud to be speaking as an entrepreneur of some 18 years, I recall my day in 2006 at the inaugural BWA entrepreneur awards evening. It was nerve wrecking and at that time, even though we are told we are all winners, it didn’t feel like it. So, ladies, I honestly know what you’re going through and I can assure you…YOU ARE ALL WINNERS. I can assure you that every single one of you has won in my book. You have displayed the sheer tenacity and staying power that it takes to get up and JUST DO IT.

WOMENS MONTH

As we approach Women’s month in South Africa, I’m reminded of the thousands and millions of our women who get up every day with hope and inspiration that today will be a better day. That their dreams, be they entrepreneurial, social, political or commercial WILL come true. It’s a simple dream right ? But for so many women in our country that is dream deferred for another day.

Women who know that no matter what their own personal circumstances are, they have hope and inspiration that their hard work will bring sustainability and success for themselves and their families. You represent these women… because we are these women. I have always believed that every woman has a story to tell. She just needs a platform to tell it. Ladies this is your platform, this is your day SO TELL YOUR STORY.

WHERE WE COME FROM

The legacy of our brutal social construct permeates our lives on a daily basis, we as women of South Africa (I want to particularly mention poor black women) are impacted by this social construct more than our men. So for me it is very, very inspiring when I come across women from all corners and all walks of life…working, toiling, being enterprising, selling tomatoes…making clothes…cooking amagwinya, baking, starting EME’s, QSE’s and SMME’s and growing these SMME’s to become engines of job creation & sustainability not simply for themselves but for their communities and our country.

We should therefore always stand up NOT ONLY DURING Women’s month, to honour all women in our country, we should salute them for their amazing tenacity at all times…to JUST DO IT !

We cannot tire from these celebrations, nor can we wallow in a celebratory mode forever because there is much to be done and too little time.

As Bill Gates says, Success is a terrible teacher. I love that quote because it’s a real reminder that success however defined is not the only measure in life, success does not DEFINE YOU.

I love his other quote, “It is okay to celebrate our success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of our failures.” End quote.

TO THE FINALISTS

To the 15 emerging, social and entrepreneur finalists, the professional and corporate category finalists well done you deserve to be where you are and we salute you.

When you rise we rise, when you shine we shine.

 I am only too ready to stand on mountains ululating because, we're all too aware that in this country, continent & globe literally cracking glass ceilings is almost impossible. So ladies as you rise, remember that not only are you following women who've come before you, but most importantly you're leading thousands if not millions more behind you. 

Speaking about glass ceilings it has been astounding watching the developments of women over the past few weeks.

 Just yesterday, Mrs Hillary Clinton clinched the Democrats nomination to become the FIRST ever woman to stand for the US presidential election. Ms Serena Williams at just 35 managed to secure her 22nd grand slam win at Wimbledon placing her among the tennis legends. Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is approaching the end of her term as AU Chair, the FIRST black woman to hold his post. Ms Theresa May became the UK prime minister at a point where Britian chose to leave the EU, when the men said we are leaving, the women said we are managing. Mrs Michelle Obama as the FIRST black female FLOTUS (First Lady Of The White House) begins planning her journey to leave the White House. Ms Thuli Madonsela our very own Joan of Arc, is leaving the public protector’s office having shown the country  and the globe what true woman grit is about.

I could go on and on...citing women of substance and worth who come from our shores and beyond, they remind us that if you believe in something and work hard to achieve it…VICTORY WILL BE YOURS.

It does not mean however that you need to be a continentally or globally recognised woman to do this. You just need to be YOU ! Self-belief and confidence are the keys to a brilliant you. We are surrounded by countless examples of women in health, business, sports, politics and religion who are demanding recognition based on their absolute passion and excellence. It is truly wonderful to see. 

AGENCY

Ladies & gentlemen, tonight's celebration is important because it's about the narrative around Agency. When you have Agency, you must use it. As leaders in this country, you have agency. So I want to speak to you as leaders who have agency. Every person in this room tonight by virtue of being here has AGENCY. This is a word I picked up from a young Nigerian South African woman, Ms Lovelyn Nwadeyi who confronts the socio-political and economic burdens of our country so decisively when she speaks. She speaks with honesty and authenticity.

When I first heard the word, I didn’t need to search its meaning, I knew exactly what it meant.

Agency is...access, information, privilege, resources, wealth, mobility. Agency is language and its power, it’s the tangible and intangible state of power that exists with those who have over those who do not have. AGENCY…LADIES AND GENTLEMAN has no real face, it’s a place you arrive at when you have the ability to DO. So, I would like to challenge the ladies who will come to the stage tonight and to all of us here, that when you have AGENCY you must use it responsibly.

If we reflect on the current extreme challenges facing our economy in SA, we live & work in a province and country full of promise & growth. Yet during the past six months we have had to tackle ALL the ratings agencies through our finance ministry to convince them that SA Incorporated is open for business and is financially strong. This affects ALL South Africans, nobody is untouched by these market shifts. As we deal with that, we are also seeing the steady and troubling decline of our GDP growth numbers, rising unemployment, social unrest and moral decay that is threatening to engulf business, politics and civil society. Unfortunately it’s NOT a pretty picture.

We therefore need leaders who will understand what their AGENCY means and HOW they can use it daily to impact positively and to build SOUTH AFRICA. We need to become part of that solution.

 

FACE OF LEADERSHIP: HUMANITY, COMPASSION, COURAGE

The face of leadership is not an academic or political construct. In my mind, its’s a simple narrative that speaks about HUMANITY, COMPASSION AND COURAGE.

As a teenager I was confronted with my first real leadership lesson. I was raised by 2 very strong role models, My father Judge Bakone Justice Moloto who is here tonight and my late mom, Dr Vuyelwa Mashalaba. They were simple parents who toiled like any other, wanting to give their 3 daughters everything of the best, wanting to teach them respect, self-love, self-confidence and black consciousness.

I used to help out in my mom’s surgery and first day at work, the senior nurse trained me on how to open a new patient card and how to address all patients. You see, the regular patient in the surgery were Umlazi residents of J-section and surrounding areas. They were women, men, children whom I didn’t know. What was evident was that all the mothers and fathers would arrive from work worked as domestic workers, garden assistants, shop tellers, nurses, managers and entrepreneurs. A typical 55-year-old woman who worked as domestic worker was called by her first name Margaret or Elizabeth (wherever she worked) even by children as young as 5 years. It was a demeaning and very challenging situation for black men and women because the constructs of power were not in their favour. So, in this surgery, when I opened a new patient card, I was only allowed to write their names as MR or MRS. The real pain came when they were called to see the doctor and the nurse would ask Mrs Mkhize or Mrs Ngubane to come forward…and nobody moved. You see they didn’t know WHO Mrs Mkhize was.  The daily habit of being addressed as Margaret by all and sundry was so real that my mom believed that her surgery was not JUST a place of healing the sick, but a place of healing the psyche and spirit of a black woman, man and child. Her leadership was totally about restoring dignity, leading with HUMANITY, CONMPASSION AND COURAGE. That was my FIRST leadership lesson which I practice to this day in my HOME and WORK. No human being is above you or I, every individual deserves RESPECT…that is the true essence of leadership.

 

FACE OF LEADERSHIP: EXCELLENCE, ETHICS, EMPATHY

In 1997 I worked as a marketing director for a family owned business. I realised 6 months into my job that infact I was a front. Once I realised this I immediately began planning my exit. In Oct/November 1997, whilst living at home with my father, I asked him to be my legal representative in a meeting I had arranged with my employer. My plan was to resign (with strings attached). I presented my resignation to my employer and the reasons for it. I then proceeded to propose that my employer deregister themselves as directors in Phosa Iliso CCTV and register me as the sole proprietor. I was not prepared to sell my integrity (pretending that this was a black owned entity). My employer conceded to my request but also warned me that I would NOT make it out there. I will not lie ladies and gentlemen, I was petrified. But with my legal counsel by my side and a whole lot of self-belief and confidence….WHO COULD STOP ME ?

That was yet another leadership lesson about Excellence, Ethics and Empathy.

To the finalists you are all running business and working in corporate at different levels or stages of your careers. Leadership doesn’t start when you become “big”….the faces of leadership are there when you start and will be there throughout your careers. Make sure that you lead in a way that you and those around you are proud of.

We are going through a lot as a nation we are faced with daily challenges which may seem insurmountable.

In closing…

  • YOU HAVE WON
  • USE YOUR AGENCY
  • THE FACE OF LEADERSHIP IS YOU
  • LEAD WITH HUMANITY, COMPASSION & COURAGE
  • LEAD WITH EXCELLELNCE, ETHICS & EMPATHY

Never forget where you come from, there is a woman watching and admiring you. KEEP HER CLOSE & SHOW HER THE WAY.