Bongekile Radebe tells us why representation matters

Bongekile Radebe tells us why it’s important to have positive role models to inspire young South Africans to pursue their dreams.

Bongekile Radebe
Bongekile Radebe is a social entrepreneur and founder of Her Destiny. Her leadership potential has been recognised through her inclusion in the One Day Leader programme. (Image: Mathiba Molefe)

Bongekile Radebe

For a young, black, woman like myself, raised in a township, representation has not only mattered but has also been my saving grace in believing and achieving my dreams.

Representation has allowed me to believe, with no permission needed, that my place is anywhere in the world I want it to be. When spaces of leadership are not gender sensitive, gender inclusive, and gender deliberate, it perpetuates a silent discouraging message that “women don’t matter”. One thing though that representation has also taught me is that gender and merit are not mutually exclusive; at least not for me.

Growing up, I found myself fascinated by smart and successful women. I remember seeing this beautiful woman who would appear in every issue of my mother’s favourite magazine, True Love. Perhaps as a little girl I loved her beauty more than I could make sense of her words, but I guess I just admired her a lot.

Khanyi Dhlomo was an inspiration to many of us and I wasn’t the only one who considered her as a role model. Perhaps, because back then you could literally count the number of popular black business women. She made us want to work in media and advertising spaces.

For some reason, this aspirational outlook on life never left me; I saw it with my friends and other women I would interact with.

No matter our age, we had people we looked up to who gave us hope for our own journeys, that we too could be significant in the world and definitely succeed at it.

Representation also played its role in my own unique destiny. From losing my dad as I was about to become a teenager, to painfully experiencing how his death would impact my family and our lives, and involuntarily fighting throughout life and its hardships. If it wasn’t for representation, I wouldn’t have known why the fight is worth it.

Our Constitution, from the rights and issues it defends on education, gender equality, health, religion, justice and all the way to trade has not only afforded me the ability to live out my dreams globally, but it has inspired me to be brave enough in this life that still demands us to fight, to master our own destinies. To create, to build, to believe, to serve and most importantly to love.

I love who I am, I love what I do, and I love that I can give and share it with you!

My clan name was right about me, as a Radebe: ngiwuBhungane oyenza ngakuningi! uMthi wami uMkhulu ngempela, meaning, “I am Bhungane and prepare everything in abundance. My majestic tree towers over all those around.”

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