“My idea was to bring the women that platform to access valuable information while under one roof.”
POWERFUL and professional women “connected” to mark the launch of the PN Thebe Annual Women’s Convention in Kimberley on the weekend.
The convention is seen as a gateway for women of all walks of life to work together and build commercial relationships in order to promote growth.
Saturday’s event at the Mittah Seperepere Convention Centre was held under the theme “Connect and Converse”.
The founder of the PN Thebe Women’s project, Kelebogile Thebe, urged women to use the opportunity to connect through starting conversations and exchanging information.
“You will never know who is going to need it and how valuable what you are going to say is,” she said.
The event saw some women-led SMMEs exhibiting their work at stalls inside the venue.
Thebe is a construction surveyor and is part of a non-governmental organisation called Mosadi Pele.
She said that her passion has always been women empowerment.
Thebe explained that the initiative was based on women’s access to information.
“I had the opportunity to live in two of the biggest metros in the country and upon returning home I realised that the reason why women are not excelling the way they should be is because they do not have the correct platform to access information.
“My idea was to bring the women that platform to access valuable information while under one roof.
“How do you explore something that you have not been exposed to,” she elaborated. “They need information on where to start, how to start a business and how to get funding. It is also about women exchanging stories.”
Thebe said that the event included women who are identified as pioneers within society in order to inspire the delegates.
“I mean, if I can do it so can you. We want to be in a situation where I can call my female doctor if I need a doctor, or my female lawyer if I need a lawyer.”
She urged that empowerment should not be left to men and that women should be at the forefront of a collective effort.
“This event is targeted for women by women,” she emphasised.
A panel of a few “hand-picked” men was, however, invited to participate at the event to “share on what we need to improve in the programme”.
“We believe that we do not exist in isolation and we have our male counterparts. The males that we know are working or have worked with women. They will participate under the topic of patriarchy and enabling a more inclusive economy and how we can better co-exist.”
The men on the panel elaborated on what women are doing right, what they are doing wrong and what can be improved on.
Thebe said that her first sponsor was a woman who believed in her vision before seeing any tangible results.
“I am a testimony to show that women can work together, it is possible. It is only a myth that women cannot work together.”
She expressed her wish to have representatives of developmental financial institutions, which fund previously disadvantaged individuals, present at the event. “They could also have witnessed the talent displayed here”.
She urged attendants not to accept the status quo, and said that if they are not being treated fairly they must “pull themselves up” and “refuse to let the story end that way”.
“Do not be afraid to knock on the doors of the NYDA, SEFA and SESAs as you are entitled to do so … they are not doing you a favour. This way you are paving the way in the same manner that it was paved for me by those ladies that marched against the pass laws.”
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Sol Plaatje University, Professor Mary-Jean Baxen, highlighted during her keynote address that she believes in “investing in your worth”.
“Worth in this instance has little to do with material things, money, fame or status. It has to do with the essence of who you are.”
Baxen said that she had little knowledge as to what her worth was, or would be, while she was growing up.
She emphasised knowingness, which she described as walking with quiet confidence.
“It brings with it lots of humility. It means that when nobody else gives you a compliment you still know your worth, irrespective of your standing in society, and you will also be giving respect to everyone else equally.”
She said that she needed to begin working on her worth from an early age, which took a lot of work. “That is because everyone around me was telling me that I am worthless. It was a long and tedious road of investment. I needed to prepare myself to fully understand my worth.”
Sharing her experience, Baxen said that after she received her PhD she thought that she had worth as an academic by having lots of books around her in her office. “I realised that that was not what makes me worthy.
“So my advice is that personal growth is an important aspect of development and inspiration and that you need to work on your worth,” she advised.