Nkandla entrepreneur: I don’t have to be a man to succeed

* Nontwenhle Mchunu
2013-08-26 13:24
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 Nontwenhle Mchunu (Supplied) ~ Supplied
Chocolatier Nontwenhle Mchunu found her freedom as an entrepreneur by embracing her femininity. She tells her story:

I WAS born in the rural plains of Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal.

Our home environment was based on respect and upholding the Zulu culture very strongly. Though this was the case, my father expected both girls and boys to be able to fix doors, paint, change car tyres, count cattle and sheep and know how to use an animal injection gun.

To those opposed to the idea he always said: “If a man can do it, so can she." 

This promoted a liberal world view for me at a young age and made my decision to go into business less intimidating.

However much my childhood had helped to open my mind, I found that the business world, for young black women in particular, was very challenging.

It seemed I had to prove I could do more to secure a deal or even be taken seriously, despite my reputable background in business and academic qualifications.

Through the years I have learnt that a large proportion of this perception is still linked to my gender, my small size and my youth.

According to World Bank studies, women contribute more than 60% of world's labour and produce 50% of food -  yet earn 10% of the income.

You might think this is due to lack of education, experience or motivation, but even in the same jobs, with the same duties and responsibilities as men, women still earn less than their male counterparts in many parts of the world.

Intellectually, I know that this should not be the case. For generations women have been the engines and leaders of their homes, so why not translate these strengths easily into business? 

But there it is, in the intimidating but real world of business it seems that many women are still finding their feet.

I started my journey towards self-fulfilment by decoding and understanding the system, and then by reinvestigating the internal concept that I needed to act like a man to be accepted. 

I have realised (and proven) that our femininity is actually our greatest strength - our grace, our smiles in the face of confusion and resilience in adversity, our ability to think and produce incredible results under the most severe pressure.

Women’s ability to manage complex relationships, sixth sense (our fortune-teller sense), nurturing, collective participation, emotional and physical pain endurance are unique traits most women leaders can bring to the table if they choose to lead as women.

Women are not mini men and should not act as such. We have a lot to offer the world, but we cannot begin to make a difference if we do not know our strength.

I have found my freedom by learning and being comfortable in the most beautiful fact that I am a woman entrepreneur. My strength is indeed in my soft but persistent voice, in my nurturing yet firm leadership.

It is my privilege to change the world as I was uniquely formed as a woman. One of my greatest lessons has to be just that I am a woman leader, and I owe to myself and the world to bring my female strength to the business world.

I don’t have be a man to succeed.

* Nontwenhle Mchunu is founder and owner of Ezulwini Chocolat.

 - Fin24

* This is a Fin24 user submission. Tell us about your experiences in the workplace and add your voice to our Women's Wealth Issue to help empower others this Women's Month.

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