EDUCATION in South Africa may be in crisis but a woman without education is trapped in poverty, says national award-winning businesswoman Wendy Luhabe.
The self-professed "retired social entrepreneur" was one of the keynote delegates at the second annual Women of Substance seminar held last week at St George's Park cricket grounds in Port Elizabeth.
"This afternoon is an invitation to make the narrative of women's lives clear, to make that which keeps us back a lot more explicit so we can recognise what gets in our way," she told her audience.
Luhabe was one of 10 businesswomen leading small groups in discussing challenges facing women and said her group covered themes which included education, empowerment and nation-building.
"Those who are custodians of education must not let embedded gender stereotypes take over," she warned.
"Women must be financially literate and independent. It is important to know how our money works.
"That is non-negotiable even if we choose to be at home, raising children."
She said a woman not using a university education was a "lost opportunity".
"A woman without education is trapped in poverty. We must enable young girls to have an education and bring up our children consciously. Pay particular attention to the choice of toys for our children, because they have a way of conveying subliminal messages. For example, we give boys toys which construct."
Her comments begged the question whether this was related to the dearth of women in the science and education fields.
A separate yet related issue was that of morality and she noted the phenomenon of young girls just out of their teens, who were having relationships with 50-year-olds who had money – and what this meant for South African society.
"All these things are related.
"Education is in crisis. Is there a role that we can play as mothers who have children?"
She believed there was a significant role to be played and not only in the home. Luhabe sits on several boards and shared her experience of the senior corporate world. "We are in a relation to our own power and we need to know how to exercise it," she said. However, this was not always the case.
"Women in leadership positions do not necessarily make the decisions. Men marginalise us in leadership positions from making decisions. Be mindful of how you want to be presented."
Confidence was another stumbling block as society could erode women's confidence.
"This is clearly a challenge for all of us on different levels whenever we are called to new roles.
"That is the nature of women – we must work on this on a constant basis lest we forget." She also cautioned against taking too much on, citing the example of one starfish on a beach of hundreds.
"Make a difference to one person.
"Let's not try to change the whole world in five minutes, rather make small changes over a period of time that can accumulate. How have you changed the world today?