• Elaine Seale Mckend

Conversations with Women | Episode 3

Updated: Jul 23, 2021

Boitshepo Gopane is a young South African woman, a twin, mother and an entrepreneur. I first met Boitshepo as part of an entrepreneurial sponsored programme in South Africa and I was lucky enough to be her coach for this journey.

What makes her interesting and inspiring is her passion for sustainability and in this case re-cycling which in South Africa is hardly established and totally male dominated. She has a degree in Science in Biology and Chemistry, a Master of Science in Microbiology and is starting a PhD but has to battle with circumstances that in the West we have little experience or understanding of.

Her baby was born while she was in University, she has worked throughout her education whilst living in a rural village Mahikeng (still commonly known as Mafeking the capital city of the NW Province in South Africa. Close to SAs border with Botswana it has a population in 2001 of 49,300 people.

Her biggest challenge to date is that because there are few women, let alone women of colour in the recycling industry it is difficult to build knowledge, relationships and collaboration. For which Women are simply not recognised which makes it near impossible to find mentors and be taken seriously.

The people that have helped her on her journey so far are her twin sister, family, academic mentors, her baby girl and her faith in God. In terms of who has inspired her she feels that SHE has been her own inspiration with a strong belief in the fact that where she has come from doesn’t matter, it's more important that SHE can be the change she wants to see. Her strong belief is that she can compete with anyone on a level playing field despite not having been to the top Universities, schools or come from a S or come from a privileged background

Her message to other aspiring young women is to do what really inspires you, what you love.

‘For me in my 20s having a voice and helping other young women to achieve a milestone. For us to have – gender equality, equal opportunities, education, the ability to collaborate in order to make the world a better place’.

The specific challenges felt by Boitshepo are – academic and financial exclusion. To get a bursary you need the right attitude and willingness to learn, your funding rests on the achievement of grades. When I had my baby in my final year my grades slipped but luckily I had two amazing mentors who made sure people knew about me and argued I had the potential to succeed. Without that I would have lost all opportunities.

The most important messages I want to pass on – Set global standards, look at the bigger picture and let the first class world inspire you. Push yourself, look above your standards, collaborate and remember the internet is not just for Facebook.

What would you like to leave the audience with today? As Nelson Mandela said, be willing to learn and that achievement doesn’t have an ending. You can change the world through collaboration and your mind. Where you come from doesn’t stop you going where you want to.

Be a hard-worker at heart, find your passion and one day you can be the change you want to be.

Listen to the full podcast here:

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