I always fall in love with the camera’s light when it hits my face.
Did I mention how my smile radiates through the camera’s lenses?
Follow me on instagram: @melanin_goddess_09
I speak poetry,
I live poetry,
Poetry is my every breath,
Poetry is me.
If you are out in Durban you will know that it is quite chilly today so I decided to stay indoors and enjoy the aroma and taste of a cup of coffee and just ONE biscuit.
It was in the year 2013 when my life was as cold as an attic facing north. I was at the peak of my teenage stage when I found myself sitting in the doctor’s room awaiting my results which shook me, for they proved that I was epileptic. I can still recall how I saw my big, bright dreams crumble into bits and pieces. During the same year I watched the movie “In pursuit of Happiness” and was forced to reconsider my thoughts when Will Smith said to his son;
“Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something.
Not even me.
You got a dream. You gotta protect it.
People can’t do something themselves, they wanna tell you, you can’t do it.
You want something, go get it.
Warm greetings to you Mr Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters, esteemed guests and visitors.
At the age of 6 I had a dream. A dream to change the world and save people’s lives. When my mother saw the passion in my eyes, she started looking for a school that would help me pursue my dreams. Most of them rejected her on the basis that I was too young. She finally found one school that was willing to take me so there I was the 6 year old girl, entering my grade 1 classroom. Some of you may be glued to your seats right now because of how weird you think I once was. Well, perhaps I should scale your nerves down by explaining the science behind “dreaming”.
Wikipedia defines a dream as a succession of images, ideas, emotions and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep. Scientists have proven that we start dreaming from when we are a 7 months fetus. At this point the muscles and eye movements give the tell-tale signs of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and the non-REM sleep. So I am normal after all. What was different from me and the other grade 1 learners is that my ambitions which revealed themselves as dreams were not of an average 6 year old minor.
I would listen to my peers speak about how they dream of having long hair and as many garments as their Barbie dolls-if they were girls and if they were boys, they would go on and on about how they would buy a 1000 of the most expensive car. I have never done any of that. I cannot remember myself dreaming of a royal prince charming and how we would live in our glorious castle happily ever after. Perhaps it is because I have always been an enthusiastic reader. I would read the newspaper and any book that I could lay my hands on. Most of which had an age restriction that almost prohibited me from embarking on my learning journey.
I agree with what Raul Tiru wrote in his article: “10 benefits of reading”. Reading increases one’s mental stimulation and knowledge. Through reading I found out that a lot of things are happening in our country and at on a global scale. I quickly understood that as a citizen I have a responsibility to come up with solutions to some of these existing problems. Due to my understanding, I found that I had little time to fantasize over Barbie dolls or imagine my prince charming, so I decided to build my ideal world in my head instead.
I had a dream:
Of living in a successful world.
Where poverty and crime are alleviated.
Where good education is provided to everyone regardless of whether they are in a public/private school.
Where we no longer have to deal with poor health which just adds on to our massive disease burden.
Where corruption is not the core reason why we undermine the state and services are not delivered.
And where people understand the term ‘rainbow nation’ and live up to its code.
At that young age I thought the only way to help people, to save their lives was by becoming their doctor. That is what I worked towards in my primary and the 1st four years of high school. It is therefore understandable that I nearly had a heart attack when the doctor told me I was epileptic. The biggest fear for me was how will I save other people’s lives when my own life needs saving? How was poverty, unemployment, corruption, crime and racism going to come to an end if there is a possibility that I could incur academic, language and memory problems? I thought I was doomed until I was exposed to other careers and realized that I can help people in many ways and I do not have to be a doctor to do that. In matric I then changed subjects and joined the Commerce stream. In 2016 I applied for, studied and completed my first year in Actuarial Sciences. This year I have made yet another career change and plan to move into Accountancy next year.
13 years and a degree change later, I have finally pin pointed how I am going to make the world a better place. Over and above studying, I will be sharing my story in an empowering way with the world. In doing this I will intend to heal others from their pain and at the same time gain further lessons myself. The truth is people do not really care about the details of your story, all they are interested in is how you kept the faith and how you eventually made it in the end.
This is my dream. A dream that is big enough to scare me. A dream that forces me to stay strong, patient and passionate simply because this dream is not just something I have been waking up to since I was 6. This dream is me.
Imagine a world where true leaders are born, imagine a world where true leaders are made, think of the number of problems that would be solved if every leader had one goal: to leave the Earth with a legacy and not a vacancy. Think of the amount of progress we would be making as a universe if all leaders understood what Katherine Byrant once said: “As a leader your every action has a consequence, make sure it is one you intend.”
Greetings to you Madame Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters, esteemed guests and visitors.
It is true that when one is given the role of a leader the first thing that comes to their mind is the title or position. Very few people think of the behaviour and change attached to the role when the announcement is made. I still remember the day as if it were yesterday, the night of the 3rd of December 2009, that very moment when I was declared the Head girl of Dalpark Primary school for the year 2010. All the stage lights were on me, I could sense the audience’s approval from their applause and boy did that gold and visible badge look on me. During my time of reign, I was given countless resources, had the chance of speaking to the school’s management team personally and amongst other things received the opportunity of gaining life lessons that I still use to this very day.
There is however one thing that bothered me and it became more and more apparent to my soul’s eye as I held greater leadership positions in high school and in University. I was concerned about the upcoming leaders, how their value system would be moulded and if they would understand the true meaning of leadership. Why did this worry me? Many of you would ask. Well the answer is simple- I was witnessing many leaders who weren’t interested in bringing up leaders and for this reason alone, this is my biggest concern for the future. I wanted to understand why this was happening so I took the challenge of determining and analysing the core cause for this bad leadership trait.
In the people management’s article, “Top 10 reasons why leaders fail”, it is said that leaders become selfish and greedy. This happens the minute a leader forgets about his/her responsibility to support the people and chooses to support him/herself instead. These are results of being power hungry and obsessed with the idea of control instead of seeking to give advice and mentorship. I am often amazed by the deeds committed by our very own President: Jacob Zuma, In November 2011 It was revealed in the Mail & Guardian newspaper that massive upgrades, paid for by the public and which cost millions of rands, were under way at Zuma’s private residence in Nkandla. It was found out that these upgrades were not related to security issues. Be this as it is, Zuma has been the president of South Africa since 2009.
Leaders also fail when they let their ethics slip. A leader is made up of two aspects: what he/she does and who he/she is. The moment there arises a discrepancy between these two aspects, an integrity problem surfaces. In August this year, Grace Mugabe (Robert Mugabe’s current wife), was accused of attacking Gabriella Engels at a Sandton hotel on a Sunday and has since invoked diplomatic immunity. What is surprising is that Robert Mugabe, who has been the President of Zimbabwe for nearly 4 decades now, has not responded to this scandal.
I have just mentioned two very powerful men, who have decided to abuse their positions as leaders and have caused the currently existing downfalls which continue to haunt their individual states. Now the unfortunate part is that we cannot change them, for they already rule and believe that what they are doing is for the best. What we do have control over though is the manner by which we lead in our small surroundings, be it at work, church or school. I believe that good leaders are those who lead with integrity, courage, creativity, collaboration and guts. After all, things do not end wrong unless they have started wrong to begin with. As we embark on our different leadership ventures, let us all remember what Ralph Nadar once said, “The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not followers.”
Miss Philisiwe Shinga if you had to change one thing about your past what would it be? Good evening Mr./Madame Toastmaster, fellow toasters, esteemed guests and the house at large. Unfortunately, we all allow someone to dictate our lives at some stage. Society told me how to live mine and the day I realized this my life was never the same again. I was born and raised in a neighbourhood called Brakpan. As far as I can remember I had both parents under the same roof until I was in grade 1. I am told this is when my parents divorced.
The divorce did not affect me. Or at least there were no apparent signs in my speech or deeds. Shortly after this event I had to choose between living with my mother or father. I chose to live with my father, simply because I’ve always been daddy’s little girl. Then my mother remarried so now I had a step father and my decision rapidly transitioned to the alternative. I packed my things and moved back to my mother’s house. In my head, I had hoped that my father understood why I did this and loved me regardless. Instead he left and disappeared.
In the midst of all of this, life was moving on in other areas such as academics and leadership. I had to move along or I was going to be left behind. I had friends and family members who grew up in a father’s absence so I knew I was not the first person to encounter this experience and I certainly was not going to be the last. According to the statistics SA report only 33% of children in South Africa live with both their biological parents, so as you would have it I was just another common case. Believe it or not this was the least of my worries until the 15th of September 2010. I was involved in a pedestrian accident where I incurred a pelvis and skull fracture. I was never a sick child so there was no need for a medical aid. At that moment, however I was challenged with an obstacle. I was told that I must do an operation on my pelvis or I will never be able to walk again.
I tried to get hold of my father but he was nowhere to be found and so I faced the fear of knowing what it is like to walk but not being able to ever do it again. The truth is only grace can explain how I am walking again without any operation being conducted. The following year we had to grieve my stepfather’s loss and suddenly I questioned if this meant that God never planned for me to have a father. In the year 2013, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. The model systems knowledge translation centre explains that it is difficult to determine brain damage long term effects and for many reasons.
In 2015, I had finally traced my father in Durban and I planned a trip to go see him. For something did not seem right. Two days later, I was sobbing in the OR Thambo Airport after my father had told me to leave his house and come back to the mother who had not raised me well. It was my matric year and I thought he was just having a bad day. That he would call and apologize for hurting my feelings but he didn’t. My results were released and that came and passed. He did all of that and before I could even forgive him, he bid this Earth farewell on the 26th of January this year.
This very same year I changed degrees at the University of Pretoria from Actuarial Sciences to Bcom Accounting Sciences. It was at this moment that I realized just how much I have been living to please society and never worried about my own joy. When my parents divorced it is not that it didn’t hurt me. It’s because I was expected by society to suck it up and be strong. I thought it was a shame to speak about parents who don’t share the same bedroom never mind the same house. After the accident I practically begged my mother not to take me to therapy to deal with the trauma because I did not want to be seen as a weak woman. When my father died I blamed myself. I told myself I am the reason he left to begin with. I should have never moved back with my mother when she remarried and I worked on filling my own void.
I then realized I had to define me as a woman using my own terms and my own rules. Philisiwe Shinga is an individual. She is a strong woman, a powerful and hard-working one too. She is obsessed over the pink colour. Throughout her 19 years of being on Earth so far, she has achieved a lot that however does not take away from the reality that she goes through her share of joy, pain, happiness, sorrows and losses. What sets her apart from all her peers is that she is always willing to gain some knowledge from her experiences-whether good or bad. So, to answer the first question I would not change a thing about my past because all the elements of my past have molded the young influential woman standing in front of you tonight.