Q and A with few of South Africa’s influential women

18 August 2016

What do Nomzamo Mbatha, Bonang Matheba, Kass Naidoo, and Farah Fortune have in common? Besides being in the limelight, they are successful women who learnt important life lessons from influential women in their lives.

With the 9th of August having been National Women’s Day, we celebrate the contribution of women through the month. Journalist Melissa Javan conducted question and answer sessions with a few of South Africa’s prominent women.

Nomzamo MbathaNomzamo Mbatha is a South African actress and the face of the skincare range Neutrogena South Africa and the Puma’s local brand ambassador. (Image: Nomzamo Mbatha, Facebook)

Who are the women in your life who have inspired you, and why?

Roxy Burger, TV presenter: My mother. Cliché, I know but she is the epitome of an amazing career woman. She will also do anything for her family. I also admire broadcasters such as Leanne Manas, Anele Mdoda and others internationally.

Farah Fortune, entrepreneur: My mum is my biggest female inspiration. She’s a strong woman who raised six children and always has the best advice. I would have loved to meet Maya Angelou, because she was a huge inspiration to me too.

Bonang Matheba, media personality: I come from a family of strong women. My mother is my biggest inspiration. From her I learned what it means to be resilient, not shaken, to love and nurture. Her sisters have also been my other role models in being a woman. They pursued education, held down households whilst being captains of their industries.

Nomzamo Mbatha, actress: My grandmother has an incredible amount of influence on the woman I am becoming and have become. She taught me everything – having strength, resilience, humility and charm. One of the things she’d say is: “People are like fingers on your hand. They may not be the same in terms of social standing, but are treated the same. Treat people equally, no matter who or what they are, because you need them.” I also admire Basetsana Kumalo, Khanyi Dhlomo, Viola Davis and mam’ Winnie Mandela.

Kass Naidoo, sports presenter: There are many women who I admire. One of my earliest inspirations was West Indian Donna Simmonds. She was cricket’s first woman commentator. These days, I’m proud of South Africa’s 800m Olympic heroine, Caster Semenya. She consistently displays courage, strength and champion temperament without apology.

Roxy BurgerRoxy Burger is television presenter for the lifestyle series Top Billing and Strictly Come Dancing. She is also a celebrity blogger. (Image: Roxy Burger)

What does Women’s Month mean to you?

Roxy Burger: It is of course special and women deserve to be celebrated. I do wish that the respect and celebration women receive during this month continues and we achieve equality in all aspects of our lives.

Farah Fortune: It means we get to highlight issues in South Africa that affect us. I’m not overly fond about Women’s Month though. I feel a little disappointed that our issues are only highlighted during this month. I wish we had more platforms throughout the year for the issues and rights that affect us.

Farah FortuneFarah Fortune is the founder and chief executive officer of the public relations company African Star Communications. (Image: African Star Communications)

Bonang Matheba: Every year, I use 9 August as a time to reflect on what 20 000, fearless women risked in order for me to have a voice and a position in society. This year it’s been more about what the Bonang Legacy will look or read like in 60 years’ time. I am ensuring that I do my part through the camp for girls I am hosting in December.

Nomzamo Mbatha: It’s an exciting time! Many women say: “It shouldn’t just be during this month that we are celebrated, it should be every month.” Of which I fully agree. However, come August, there’s a breeze in the air, women walk taller, owning who they are, unafraid of their voices, sharing their stories, being bold, demanding their voices to be heard, reminding men how powerful we are. Women’s Month for me means that we are claiming a place in this world that belongs to us in the most fiercest and fearless way.

Kass Naidoo: Women’s Month gives us the opportunity to amplify our message to raise profile of South African women in sport, and comes on the back of a daily commitment to support our athletes and women in sport.

Kass NaidooKass Naidoo was South Africa’s first female cricket commentator. She is also founder of G Sport for Girls, an online platform that promotes girls and women in sports. (Image: Judd van Rensburg/ Jet Club, Kass Naidoo)

Can South African women move the country forward?

Roxy Burger: Of course. This goes without saying. I believe that the emotional strength women have is something that is not respected enough. Sometimes this is even seen as a weakness but I believe a high EQ is a leadership quality we as women should embrace.

Farah Fortune: Yes! We are a strong willed nation of women leaders. We need to create our own platforms to have our voices heard. When we look at what women have done for South Africa since 1956 alone, the evidence is there that we as women in South Africa are capable of anything.

Bonang Matheba: Most definitely. Women are the cornerstone of society. When anything goes wrong with a child in the home or community, it is always the woman who is looked upon to give answers and speak solutions to that.

Nomzamo Mbatha: Absolutely! South African women have one of the deepest and strongest narratives. Our forefathers fought and had resilience which was imparted on us when they left this earth. As women of this country we have woken up and realised that we are worldly, and can become absolutely anything in this world, and guess what, we want it! There is a strength that we have and a sense of leadership that we are fighting for now. We are becoming anything and everything that we have always wanted to be.

Kass Naidoo: South African women are moving the country forward, because of our tenacity, ability to endure, and our hunger for success.

Bonang MathebaBonang Matheba’s resume´ includes radio disk jockey, television presenter for lifestyle shows like the Afternoon Express, and being a global ambassador for Revlon cosmetics. (Image: Bonang Matheba)

Any advice to women?

Roxy Burger: Run your own race. Try not to compare yourself to others. And let’s stop pulling each other down. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Let’s support one another and uplift one another and that is how we can create change.

Farah Fortune: Always do what’s best for you. Your gender is not a disability.

Bonang Matheba: Be each other’s champions. We are so much more than the bickering.

Nomzamo Mbatha: Have resilience. The resilience to fight for your voice, your place and your dreams. We can and will be any and everything that we want to be. Society is afraid of the strength we have, now is the time to be the change. Now is the time! Let us love each other, support each other and know that if one of us wins, it’s a win for all!

Kass Naidoo: My advice for women is to find your passion, work hard and reach for the stars!

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