Empowering women – Madelein Mkunu

2012-10-25 11:59

After 13 years in the financial administration field, Madelein Mkunu moved towards women’s leadership and empowerment.

As CEO of Leading Women of Africa, she recently attended Dialogue for Action Africa, a platform for business, health, education, government, media and security experts from Africa.

What was your first job?
In 1994, I worked as a bookkeeper for a car repair centre in Cape Town.

What prompted you to switch from financial administration to gender and women’s affairs?
I grew up in an environment where I saw my mom and other women struggle to raise their kids.

I always knew I wanted to help women. It later developed into a vision and grew bigger.

In 2008, I decided to give up accountancy and follow my heart.

What is the best piece of business advice you have ever received?
One phrase that resonates well with me is ‘A vision never dies’.

How important is networking?
It’s the bread and butter of any business.

It brings like and unlike minds together, who ultimately connect at similar or different levels.

This brings about the best solution – and the best results – in all situations.

What keeps you motivated?
My drive and vision. I often feel like a traveller who has not yet reached her destination.

What is the worst professional decision you’ve ever made? What did you learn from it?
I launched Leading Women of Africa in 2008 without having sufficient funds.

I now understand the importance of contingency funds.

Women’s economic empowerment is such a weighty issue. How far do you think Africa still has to go to achieve this?

The past three decades have seen interest in the issue of women empowerment.

However, there is still too little success achieved in this area, because most policies and legal frameworks seek solutions without actual, real participation of women.

Africa can only achieve women’s economic empowerment when African governments, international institutions and development partners move away from the concept of ‘What can we do for women?’ to ‘What can we do with women?’

At the same time, women ought to stand up and speak out and not wait for opportunities to be delivered to them.

How do you respond to criticism or naysayers?

Life is about learning so I always use criticism as a stepping stone.

I take what is positive, scrap what I don’t need and move on quietly.

Things they don’t teach you at business school:

1. If you have a vision, you will create and determine a path.
2. Persistence, perseverance and faith are key if you want to succeed.
3. A person with a positive attitude can do anything.

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