Inspirational women hailed

Cindy Preller

FIVE of Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government are from the Eastern Cape. At an awards ceremony yesterday, the jewels of Eastern Cape industry and government were honoured by this annual competition for the impact they had in their communities.

From feeding impoverished Port Elizabeth pupils in Arcadia, selling designer clothes in Richmond Hill to empowering students through bursaries and training, each category winner had an inspirational impact on their Eastern Cape communities.

This is also a criterion which sets the CEO magazine’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government apart from other competitions, where the focus is often on turnover instead of the individuals’ abilities to give back to their communities.

Bringing tears to the eyes of guests attending the awards ceremony in Port Elizabeth, the Lifetime award winner as well as the category winner for education and training, Gloria Loggenberg, told of her daily struggle to feed 972 pupils at Arcadia Primary School, where she has been a principal since 1999.

“Before we can teach them, we need to feed them. My parents taught me to give my best when I get up in the morning and this is what I do every day. The plight of the children at my school is heart- breaking,” she said.

An emotional Loggenberg received a standing ovation and thanked her staff for their hard work. “I still do not know who nominated me for the award, but I am thrilled by the recognition I received.”

Already vowing to have a network dinner among the winners based in the Eastern Cape, Dr Bridgette Gasa, the basic industries category winner, said the calibre of winners was exceptional. She said it was humbling to be recognised beyond South Africa’s borders as the continent’s women leaders.

“Being recognised in this category is humbling but also a wake-up call that we are too few in this industry and that corporates need to do more to create awareness in the sector,” said Gasa, who is the founder of the Elilox Group, an infrastructure project management company.

She was recognised for the bursary scheme she offers through Elilox to female students interested in pursuing a career in the built industries.

Similarly empowering previously disadvantaged students by introducing them to the wonders of Megatronics, department manager at the Automotive Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) Estelle Gathercole was the passionate category winner in the automotive sector.

“We fight very hard every year for a budget to be able to introduce between 30 and 60 learners to engineering and train them. The interest in engineering has shifted over the years with between 50 to 60% of the students now being female. We equip them with a skills basket to be globally competitive in the automotive sector.”

The winner in the cyclical consumer goods sector was a surprised Stephanie Beyers-Van den Berg from Silver Spoon Clothing.

This creative force not only employs women to help her make designer clothes for her Richmond Hill clothing store, but she is also involved in several community projects.

“I plan to employ 2000 people in the next five years for a separate business plan that I am working on with a partner. It is wonderful to be recognised for my creative ideas – not as something whimsical but as a business plan that can become a reality,” she said.

Recognised as one of only eight finalists in the country in the highly contested category of SMEs, Port Elizabeth businesswoman Mimi Rupp, from Stone etc, said there were many more women who made a difference in their communities who should enter for next year’s awards.

The final judging panel for the competition consisted of Advocate Willem Heath of Heath Consulting and the chief executive of the South African Maritime Association (Samsa), Commander Tsietsi Mokhele.

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