The timing of my inaugural column is rather fortuitous for me as it falls on Youth Month and I am passionate about youth development and empowering young people.
My column will be about inspiring, encouraging and building one another, with a particular focus on women. I will deal with issues of self-growth, success, family (raising kids, love, marriage), relationships, friendships, networking (social and business). We are going to have lots of fun as we grow together.
I am a child of the 1970s born to a mother who was a teacher and father who was a bus driver, hard-working parents with an incredible work ethic.
My parents were very enterprising, teaching me and my siblings that hard work has never killed anyone. They inspired us to dream big and never to be afraid of failure.
When other kids were playing in the streets, I used to sell a tray of boiled eggs up and down our street, on weekends my siblings and I used to sell sandwiches, ice cream and chesa nyama at soccer stadiums.
We all had a collective responsibility to help “moeder and vader”, as we used to call them, put food on the table, a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs.
We didn’t have much in terms of material possessions but we had a lot of love. We knew we mattered, my parents affirmed us, encouraged us to be the best we could be.
I learned entrepreneurship from my mother’s kitchen. We used to have an assembly line making the sandwiches, my mother buttered the bread, my sister Johanna put in the filling, our elder sister Lerato cut the bread, my dad cling wrapped and my brother Mojalefa and I packed the sandwich boxes.
Ella Fitzgerald said, “It’s not where you come from that matters, but where you are going.” This quote has resonated with me for a long time. You cannot and should not allow the circumstances of your past determine your future and your destiny.
Growing up in the apartheid era, we were told by the system of the past that we would not amount to anything, we were the “lost generation”. Some of us decided to be rebels with a cause and defy that notion.
The youth of today have greater opportunities than some of us had. Like Madiba said: “It’s in your hands!” I believe that you can write your own script and being “born free” already gives you an added advantage from the starting blocks.
Last week on Facebook Michelle Obama’s last commencement address as First Lady of the US reminded me of what I know for sure. She said: “You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead it’s more important for you to understand that your experiences of facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.. I encountered students who had every advantage, their parents paid their full tuition, they lived in beautiful campus dorms, they had every material possession a college kid could ever want; cars, computers, spending money… life will put many obstacles in your path that are far worse than a bad grade.. you will experience illnesses and losses, crises and setbacks that will come out of nowhere and knock you off your feet.
“But unlike so many other young people, you have developed the resilience and the maturity that you need to pick yourself up and dust off and keep moving through the pain, keep moving forward! You have developed that muscle and please always do your part to help others do the same.”
People of the South, let’s write a new narrative as we celebrate 40 years of a course of history that championed a revolutionary trajectory.
As a people, as a nation, as South Africans, we owe it to the hero’s and heroines of our struggle to pay it forward, to run the race and finish strong.