Celebrating the leaders, the pioneers, and the visionaries of the Coega Development Corporation
Asanda Xawuka, Telly Chauke, and Mokgaetši Sebothoma have a few things in common. They are all leaders and trendsetters in their respective fields of expertise, and they exemplify “Generation Equality”. They are also recent appointees to the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) executive management team. We asked them: “Why work towards Generation Equality and what’s standing in our way”?
Here’s what they said:
“Generation Equality is about driving change to achieve positive impact in the lives of millions of women and girls across the globe and fast-tracking the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): ‘Reduced Inequality’ and ‘Decent work for all and economic growth’. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa provides equality as a fundamental human right. The women of this country have over the years been involved in the struggle for equal rights – significantly, the women-led march of 9 August 1956 which was against pass laws. Today, women have different struggles, but what remains common is the gender equality and recognition in society and the workplace. While we recognise the strides that have been made since the dawn of democracy, the gap remains somewhat wide in terms of opportunities and recognition afforded to women and girls.
We need to work towards Generation Equality to close existing gaps and prevent the perpetuity of inequalities. Transformation and providing equitable opportunities are key. Women must be valued for their unique and feminine contribution to society and the workplace. In my view, the hinderance to achieving this is the prevailing mindset that requires transformation and the willingness of those who occupy positions of power to drive the generation equality agenda – the majority of which are our male counterparts. Women and girls need to own their space of operations, remain true to self, and continue contributing for the advancement of their future and generations after them.”
Ms Xawuka holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration Cum Laude from the Nelson Mandela University Business School, a B-Tech in Industrial Engineering from the University of South Africa and is currently completing her Bachelor of Laws degree with the University of Fort Hare. Asanda started her career in the automotive manufacturing sector as an Industrial and Process Engineer, before joining Eskom Distribution. There, she spent over 13 years as a Business Analyst before being promoted to a management role, focusing on strategy, enterprise risk management and organisational performance management and reporting. She was also the Chairperson of the Provincial Workplace Forum, facilitating engagement processes and dispute resolution between Organised Labour and management for efficiencies in operations and the promotion of good working relations. Prior to joining the CDC, Asanda occupied a position of Executive Manager of Operations at Joe Gqabi Economic Development Agency.
“The empowerment of women and girls all over the world has been a resounding call for decades since the launch of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action of 1995 by United Nations Women. Although, in the nearly 30 years since, significant strides have been made globally for the inclusion of women in mainstream economies and social programmes; and concerted efforts realised in creating opportunities for the education, development, and protection of girl children; modern day society remains markedly unequal.
In this decade, Generation Equality should herald a greater investment in efforts to address the societal and economic imbalances characterised by gender imparity in both the working world and social and cultural environments.
Many of the fields in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) remain predominantly male dominated, with women purported to make up only 28% of the STEM workforce. Whilst the world continues to acknowledge the gender gap in industry, business, education, society and economies, there remain significant barriers in our way of achieving true balance and gender parity including:
- the “tracking away” of girls and women from STEM fields of study and work through stereotyping norms and systemic disincentives for their participation;
- subliminal messaging in the media and academia that reinforces real and perceived separation, distinctions, and biases in the workplace; and
- the pro-male world of work evidenced by unequal pay for similar skills and responsibilities and the persistent attribution of leadership roles to males.
Although these barriers are systemic in nature and are of both design (i.e., deliberately constructed) and by default (inherent socialisation); I recognise that change is happening, albeit slowly, particularly in corporate environments. My greatest ambition is to see consistent recognition of the unique talents and capabilities of women and girls in leadership positions; and to be part of the growth of empathy in the workplace, schools, and communities. Women and girls must be recognised as being capable of far more than the roles of nurturers and caregivers that society has type-cast them into; but also, be developed to harness their creative and innovative talents in sectors that are presently male dominated in industry. Above all else though, I believe that the greatest changes will be realised when women and girls stand in solidarity and with unity of purpose in building and sustaining Generation Equality; and to this end, I am inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks’ quote that ‘We are each other’s harvest; each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond’.”
Ms Chauke holds Postgraduate Degrees in Economics and Environmental Science from Rhodes University, a Postgraduate Certificate in Development Finance from the University of Stellenbosch Business School, and other sectoral qualifications in Project Management, Disaster Risk Management, Media Relations, and Public Policy Development. She is an Environmental, Social and Governance Specialist, with over 15 years’ experience in the fields of environmental governance, climate change, disaster risk management and sustainable development in the public and civil society sectors. Prior to her appointment at the CDC, Ms. Chauke held the position of Specialist: Environment, Climate Change and Sustainability at the South African Local Government Association, where she spearheaded the establishment of sustainability practice in municipal infrastructure and services. Telly has also held seats on various national advisory committees and councils.
“Generation Equality is every human being’s birth right, whether male or female. We have an opportunity to change the trajectory of human evolution and advancement through diversity, equality, and inclusion, not by accepting things as they are, but by challenging the status quo and the societal paradigms that have for long sought to put women in a box. There is no box except the one we have created in our own minds. If we accept that 1) we are God’s highest form of creation; 2) spirit lives in and through us; and 3) spirit seeks fuller expression and expansion through each and every individual, then we also have to accept that the meaningful liberation of women is critical to the fulfilment of humanity’s divine mission on Earth. Denying women the right to equality would be to reject our divine assignment and would result in a half-lived human experience because the feminine energy is a key ingredient to the creative process of any form, be it in the home, business, politics, society, or the world. This is the only way that humanity can truly make a difference in the world and leave it a better place for generations to come. Generation Equality is an idea whose time has come. Women cannot wish it away! Men cannot wish it away! Society cannot wish it away! The world cannot wish it away! No one, and I mean no one, can wish it away! And ignoring it is not going to make it go away! We must stop and pay attention! Women rise up and take charge, the future belongs to us! Our time is now! Ke nako! We are the ones we have been waiting for!”
Ms Sebothoma obtained her BProc and LLB Degrees from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as an LLM Degree from the University of the Witwatersrand. She is an Admitted Attorney of the High Court of South Africa, an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) working towards her ICF credentialing through Coach Africa and is also a Certified Proctor Gallagher Institute Consultant. After joining PetroSA in 2004, she rose through diverse legal and commercial roles to achieve her position as Head of Legal Counsel. After having spent over 17 years at the institution, she honed her skills by venturing into private practice through the establishment of Divinity Global Group, an emerging black-owned company specialising in leadership development, and executive and management coaching and consulting. Mokgaetši’s experience includes legal and compliance roles with the Human Rights Commission of South Africa and the Competition Commission of South Africa.