Move over Mighty Men …The Wonderful Women are here

2008-08-22 00:00

Di Smith was out running one morning, pondering how she could make a difference in South Africa, when an idea popped into her head: a huge gathering of women at Durban’s Absa Stadium on August 31.

On returning from her run, the Pietermaritzburg-based entrepreneur put a call through to the stadium. “My thinking was that if the stadium was available, then it was meant to be,” she said.

As it happened, it was.

So Smith made a provisional booking and got to work raising funds for an event that she envisaged would bring together 10s of thousands of South African women of all cultures to celebrate both their role in society and the magnificence of their country. She decided to call it “the Wonderful Women Gathering”.

So committed is Smith to the event that she’s using personal funds to cover some of the substantial costs involved in using the stadium.

Co-founder with Derryn Campbell of Awesome SA, a non-profit organisation launched last year aimed at “changing negative talk into positive actions”, Smith is a passionate and energetic advocate of a positive future for South Africa.

Through the organisation, she is committed to challenging complacency and despondency and giving people the impetus to get involved in projects that will contribute to the country’s success.

“We offer presentations to companies and groups that give a more balanced perspective on what is happening in South Africa,” said Smith.

The Wonderful Women’s Gathering is part of that campaign.

“Having grown up on a farm in Kokstad, I know first hand the enormous contribution women make to our society,” she said. “They are its backbone.”

While the event is not exclusively for women, it is aimed primarily at celebrating their contribution to society.

“So men who attend should come in that spirit,” said Smith’s daughter Candice, who is assisting with preparations.

Smith had only six weeks from the time that the Government Communication and Information Services (GCIS) confirmed on July 11 that the gathering would appear on the government’s calendar to the gathering at the end of Women’s Month.

In that time, she’s secured a personal endorsement of the event from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and persuaded popular South African Afro-fusion band Freshlyground to be among the performers on the day (see box at left).

“We’ve chosen those people who feel strongly and positively about South Africa, so I really wanted to have Freshlyground there,” said Smith.

“I went through the band’s official publicity channels and was turned down immediately. So I attended one of their recent concerts in Durban and asked to speak to them once they were finished. They were very receptive to the idea.”

So receptive in fact, that the band has agreed to travel to Durban on August 31 from Swaziland where they are performing the night before the gathering of women.

Smith said the gathering will also act as a platform to launch the Movement for Good in KwaZulu-Natal. The movement, which counts among some of its founders the International Marketing Council and Heartlines, serves as an umbrella body for organisations currently mobilising South Africans towards a positive future. It’s motto is, “It starts with me, it starts with you”.

Smith is also excited about having secured Dr Nikolaus Eberl as a speaker. Eberl’s latest book The Hero’s Journey: Building a Nation of World Champions, takes up the story of Germany’s nation-branding success during that country’s 2006 World Cup.

Like Eberl, Smith believes that 2010 is South Africa’s second opportunity, after democracy in 1994, to create another miracle.

“Two years prior to the German world cup, ‘fan festivals’ were organised to celebrate the people of Germany — their sportsmen and

-women, their artists and others — which had an enormous effect on raising morale and patriotism and also ensured a successful world cup.”

For Smith, the Wonderful Women’s gathering is a kind of “fan festival” that will break people out of their entrenched social “pockets” and create a sense of something greater.

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