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My story

My life has not always been easy, but I use the challenges to strengthen me and to show others that your past circumstances do not define your future.

I grew up in a two-roomed shack in Kimberly, Northern Cape. My mother died of HIV/AIDS-related illnesses when I was seventeen, and since my father has never been present in my life, I consider myself to be an orphan. I became a mother to my firstborn when I was eighteen and am now a mother to two boys. Despite the odds stacked against me – or perhaps because of them – I am an entrepreneur, an advocate for women’s leadership, a social scientist and spiritual guide.

The African ideal of Ubuntu has directly influenced my progress and development. Through meeting compassionate people who are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others, I managed to jump over hurdles that history has layered in my path. It is only thanks to the help of others and my willingness to work hard that I have been able to achieve anything of note. My life demonstrates that the challenges of structural inequalities and pervasive poverty can be overcome.

When I was nineteen, I enrolled for a certificate in Marketing Management at the University of South Africa (UNISA.) While I was studying, I also started working for a small civil engineering company as a receptionist. I went on to join a small inbound tour operator as an assistant to the travel consultants; that was when my career in inbound travel started. Due to my strong work ethic and my willingness to learn, I was promoted within six months of joining the company. I later worked for companies such as The Forum (with fantastic leadership from Glynis Hyslop), and Tsogo Sun (one of South Africa’s largest hotel and casino groups) where I was mentored by its then Group Sales Director, Jackie Williams.

During my years in corporate, I enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management with the Regenesys Business School. It was demanding juggling work, motherhood and my studies, but I was determined to succeed.

 

In 2012, I established the MontseM Foundation (MM Foundation). I started the foundation because I identified a need to give hope to the many people of South Africa who live in dire conditions such as the environment in which I grew up. The aim of the foundation is to work in partnership with NGOs and communities to create sustainable development programmes.

I have always been a believer in the power of education and so I have been relentless in my pursuit of it. In 2018 I completed a Bachelor of Commerce Honours degree in Business Management with UNISA, and I am currently conducting research for a Master’s degree in the field of governance, specialising in public policy. My research focuses on women’s social entrepreneurship and how it is a bridge to economic growth and development.

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