“We live in societies that if we are not true to ourselves, someone else will determine the truth for you and that sucks! How sad it must be to wake up every day knowing that you are not at peace with who you are. You become an imposter in your own life.” – Malebo Gololo
You’ve been described as “Inspirational Speaker, Empress Regnant, Thinker on Development and identity, Soul Whisperer, Supershero,” tell us, who is Malebo Gololo?
I have been through quite the journey and have experienced much light, colour and darkness to a point that sometimes I never know where to start when asked to tell my story. I will therefore not attempt to tell you all my adventures and only choose that which come to mind. First and foremost, it must be known that I am an extremely spiritual person and therefore God is and will always be the basis of everything I do. I am a proudly Afrikan daughter of the soil who took a while to realise how glorious her continent is. I remember my first trip to Europe and I would get asked where I was from. I would proudly answer “Johannesburg” making sure that they understood that Johannesburg was separate from the rest of Afrika. That was up until Biko happened to me and the rest is history.
“I am Afrika and Afrika is me. She sought me and teaches me to bleed for her Renaissance.”
My childhood is a bit of a blur mainly because of what happened to me. I did not view my existence through the lens of those who were around me. They saw a beautiful confident young leader whilst I was locked up in a world of unworthiness and self-doubt. This was mainly because I was sexually violated at a very young age. I dealt with this through overeating and disappearing into an imaginary world. I became overweight because of this overeating which caused more self-image/esteem problems, adding to the issues I was already dealing with.
Being raised by selfless parents ignited a spark I had inside for humanity. For the longest time I can remember, I have always wanted to become a SuperShero (Based on all the cartoons I used to watch and the imaginary worlds I would often disappear off to). When I was 10 years old, I was part of a peer facilitation programme which certified me to facilitate life skills to my peers and even those who were older than me. After high school, I ditched an opportunity to study engineering to travel around the continent and Europe as a youth development worker with a team of young people – oh what a journey. People loved us; we would speak, dance, teach sign autographs and even offer counselling. When we toured Germany and the surrounds, were a bunch of Afrikans setting the Europeans free – totally rewriting the Afrikan narrative.
I have had the opportunity of teaching performance art and public speaking to hundreds of young community workers. I have taught at a remedial school and have lived and studied in New York. I dropped out of my programme in New York because I was home sick and I knew my heart was back home. Upon returning to South Africa, I enrolled at University of South Africa (UNISA) and worked for various American youth development programmes. I was then recruited into a corporate position in early 2008 (in an American company). Biko happened to me about the same time I got into the corporate world and this was a start of a revolution in my life.
I started a non-profit organisation called Soul Ova in 2005 which focused on emotional wellbeing and counselling. Initially it was geared at assisting women, but we were so popular and relevant that even men wanted in too. Soul Ova also got to run programmes in correctional facilities (prison) for five years. This was driven by the curiosity to discover and analyse the violent masculinity issues we have in South Africa.
Struggling to balance my corporate and community work, and my new found consciousness, I resigned from my ever comfortable corporate position at the end of 2011. Although things were going great career wise in the eyes of an observer, it was not where my soul found peace. I went into a mini sabbatical while pursuing my community work. That is when I found my home as a Thought Leader and Development worker. I currently run a growth and development company where I offer speaking, MC services and organisational strategies for mostly non-profit companies. Because I found myself overwhelmed with mentorship requests, I started an online female development programme called Lady Leader. I am also involved in various projects and initiatives which speak to identity and development.
I have a learning disability where I struggle with focus and memory. I read a lot to make sure that my brain functions. If I do not do this, then I struggle.
I am a lover of knowledge and as a thought leader; I get invited to contribute about the socio-economic issues facing South Africa and the continent at large. This contribution is done through various channels such as media and events.
You decided to move from the corporate world into social entrepreneurship. Why?
Community work has always been in my blood and the corporate world became too costly for me. My corporate work often required me to take my attention off my community work and this caused a huge void inside of me. I was unfulfilled and no amount of money could fill this void. I also realised that the corporate world literally controlled my life and I became a slave to it. When you are not aligned, you are most likely not going to be able to handle the challenges thrown at you. After honest conversations with key individuals I reflected on the type of life I wanted to live. I knew that what my soul hungered for was not found in the corporate space. It was a huge risk because when I resigned I did not have a plan. I literally took a leap of faith. I usually tell people not to resign after they hear my story as we all have different circumstances to fall on after the resignation. I had a community organisation I could fall on and I was pretty self-actualised when I resigned. It is a different story for someone who has no clue about where they are going. Wisdom plays a huge role in this.
Here’s a podcast on Malebo leaving her job: https://soundcloud.com/malebo-gololo/malebo-chats-to-pabi-moloi-on-power-fmabout-her-leaving-her-job
I once attended a summit and a speaker quoted these words by Jennifer Brea “Many of Africa’s best and brightest become bureaucrats or NGO workers when they should be scientists or entrepreneurs.” This quote stuck with me as I realised that Afrika in its entirety has become NGO driven due to its dependence on the West and the narrative that Afrikans are always in need of help. If charity does not develop an individual, it cripples them. I did not want to become a disabler but rather a builder. I decided to change my language from community work to development work. My work focuses on developing the identity of an individual so that they could become conscious citizens who contribute to society in all aspects. One of the things that are close to my heart is to see individuals who participate in the economy. If we do not develop the individual, then no amount of methods and programmes will solve the ills of our continent, especially given our history as a collective.
You wear many hats, how do you juggle it all? How do you prioritize?
All of my hats are interlinked so I don’t find that I have to worry much about juggling characters. I also do not work alone which helps a lot. Besides my assistant who keeps me sane, I have partnered with various individuals to make sure that most projects and initiatives maintain traction. I must confess though that due to my academic commitments and progression, I have had to learn to prioritise and focus on what matters the most. This is because I want to make more time for my family and friends and probably start a family of my own.
What does your quote “although you did not apply to be born, the choice to live is yours” mean to you personally?
We all have a story to tell and life has somewhere served us a portion we believe is unfair. Some things happened not by choice but because of the families, communities and continent we were born into. The past therefore does not have to determine your destiny. I had every reason to stay angry at my violators. I had every reason to blame life for some of the challenges I have seen along the way, I had every reason to be some drug addict but I knew I would not get my cape and pen (a pen is mightier than the sword right?) if I did that, so I chose to live a life that is worth an adventure.
Who and/or what inspired you on your path?
My parents are my heroes and they have shaped me into who I am. They have allowed me to make decisions and learn from them. I am very close to my parents which is a blessing to me. After my parents, life and everything around me inspires me. I am very intuitive and my spirit is sharp which allows me to read deeper in a situation. This always allows a different perspective.
You’ve done things that some people never get a chance to do in their lives – skydiving, motor bike racing? Am I leaving anything out? What drives you?
Besides travelling to countless towns and living with diverse families around the world in my lifetime. I have always sought to challenge stereotypes and limitations. Because of my self-image problems, I constantly have to remind myself of the immense possibilities within me. Because of the extreme nature of both sky diving and motor biking (and the cost implications), I had to choose one and I chose biking J
What in your estimation is the single most important thing every individual needs to possess to succeed in life?
“To thineself be true” – Authenticity. We live in societies that if we are not true to ourselves, someone else will determine the truth for you and that sucks! How sad it must be to wake up every day knowing that you are not at peace with who you are. You become an imposter in your own life.
What’s in the horizon for you?
Short term: I am so broody – I really want to start a family; mainly to grow the kid’s afro but also for all the right reasons. I also want to finally publish one of the many manuscripts in my possession.
Long Term: In 10 years I want to be a full professor and have established a leadership school for Afrikans, by afrikans via Afrika.
What haven’t you done yet that you would like to accomplish?
I would like to go on a three-month walk/bike ride around the continent with a bunch of likeminded people. And since we are a bunch of development geeks, a cause will be attached to the trip and we can’t leave out the blogging right?
Where can people connect with you on social media?
I am very interactive on social media and enjoy connecting with like-minded individuals
On facebook: Malebo Gololo
Lady Leader: https://www.facebook.com/ladyleaderInt?fref=ts
On twitter: @malebosays and Instagram: malebosays
My Blog: www.malebosays.blogspot.com
Where I am exploring fiction writing: www.malebowrites.blogspot.com
In closing I would like to quote Laurel Thatcher Ulrich – “Well behaved women seldom make history.”
Well Laurel, you are so right!!!!
Malebo is a breath of fresh air. She speaks truth, an old soul in a young woman’s body. She’s been working her path to greatness for years. Expecting greater things from her. Keep walking your path to greatness Malebo!