Proteas of the Valley 2023

Every year during National Women’s Month, Valcare celebrates and honours the women who make the Cape Winelands’ communities a better place.

An independent nomination and selection process determines the women selected as part of our Proteas of the Valley women’s empowerment initiative. This initiative is now in its eleventh year and is again showcasing remarkable women from Franschhoek to Paarl, Stellenbosch and Wellington.

A Protea of the Valley is a woman who flourishes and flowers despite challenging conditions.  Throughout the month, they will share their stories and talk about their work and organisations.

Marie-Louise Raymond

Marie-Louise Raymond

Rirhandzu Marivate

Rirhandzu Marivate

Cornel de Beer

Cornel de Beer

Magdaleen Goosen

Magdaleen Goosen

Siphokazi Silandela-Maseti

Siphokazi Silandela-Maseti

Wilma Josefs

Wilma Josefs

Filida Mhalo

Filida Mhalo

Heidi Hartzenberg

Heidi Hartzenberg

Garine de Wet

Garine de Wet

Bronwen Bayman

Bronwen Bayman

Marie-Louise Raymond

Marie-Louise Raymond

My life motto: “Proudly South African! The beauty of our country lies in the heart of each person—we just sometimes need the love and support from people around us to bloom!”

Women need to light the fire in each other. They need to stand together to make a change and bring light to their communities, says the 39-year-old mother of three, Marie-Louise Raymond. 

“I grew up in a family where my parents always motivated us to help and support people around us. They encouraged us to ensure that you always acknowledge the challenges people face daily and never to judge anybody,” Marie-Louise details her upbringing in Pretoria. 

Today she is spreading her light in Franschhoek, where she is the principal of the Kusasa Academy—a school that aspires to break the cycle of poverty and provide the country with a brighter future by engaging disadvantaged children at an early age to give them a great foundation for educational and human development.

Marie-Louise took up the position of head of the school in 2015. She’s described as a dynamic and compassionate leader, social worker and educator and is passionate about creating a love for learning at a young age. She believes that the emotional challenges learners experience needs to be addressed first and foremost, after which they are ready to learn in the classroom. 

“I was free to create a school that ensures that children’s needs are met on an academic and social level. I steered the school to receive its UMALUSI accreditation while focusing on the uniqueness of each child and family that entered our school,” she highlights one of the greatest achievements in her life so far. 

It hasn’t, however, always been an easy road to get to this point in her life. As a social worker, the caseload became extremely large, and Marie-Louise realised she had a yearning to make a deeper impact. 

“I realised that I needed to support and help children on a more daily basis. Moving from social work to teaching within the non-profit sector provided me with the advantage of supporting families and children daily through holistic principles,” she says. 

One of the things she is proudest of in her life is seeing children daily that love learning. “I am also very proud of creating a paradigm where in a school, the vision is that the child, teacher and family are all in equal partnership to ensure the trajectory for the child’s future.”

Even though Marie-Louise tries to spread her light and love for education and learning as far and wide as she can, she says it concerns her that the need is so great. “There are so many children beyond our reach. We, however, believe that every day is a new chance. It is the hug from a child at the end of a hard day that makes it all worthwhile,” she says. 

“The parents that trust the system and feel comfortable enough to disclose the current issues at home in order for the school to help the child also motivate me to keep on doing what I am doing.”

Marie-Louise admits she has learnt many lessons in her lifetime, but the one that stays with her is to keep on believing in yourself. 

“I am the type of person that shoots and then aims. And that’s okay. Sometimes you hit the target, and other times you must try again. You have to believe in yourself—we are all capable of achieving our dreams and making a difference.”

Rirhandzu Marivate

Rirhandzu Marivate

My life motto: “Be yourself.” 

The bold-looking bloom of a protea flower symbolises strength, resilience, and power. It’s a beautiful and unique flower, and at the same time, the epitome of perseverance, as it must be tough and hard to survive. 

These are also the characteristics one can use to describe the 34-year-old Rirhandzu Marivate, a regenerative food systems coordinator living in Stellenbosch and an environmentalist passionate about both nature and people and how they can co-exist together. 

Rirhandzu works at the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch, where she also serves on the Stellenbosch Civil Advocacy Network’s (SCAN) steering committee and acts as chairperson for the network’s Food Security Working Group.

She is a dedicated and hardworking young woman with a good head on her shoulders. She believes that we are all stewards of land and nature and is dedicated to playing a part in protecting and restoring it. 

“I also contribute [to this] by capacitating and supporting others to do so. I believe that working with food sustainably is the greatest means to do this because food feeds and sustains us—it connects us and nature. Farming, being one of the oldest vocations, should continue to be life-giving and life-affirming. We can live in a world where people and nature co-exist in a respectful manner and enable us to thrive.” 

Rirhandzu grew up in the Ga-Rankuwa township, north of Pretoria. She has fond memories of her childhood, recalling how well supported she was by her family as well as her community. “I attended a rural school group (Motsweding Preschool, Morekolodi Primary School, and the Tsogo Secondary School) based in Mmakau village, in the Northwest Province. The schools were resource-poor, and we did not have access to many resources and opportunities, but we were privileged to receive a quality education from dedicated staff and teachers,” Rirhandzu explains. 

The greatest challenges she experienced in life were during adulthood, she recalls. Moving to the Western Cape in 2011, firstly, was a big challenge and culture shock, and she felt isolated and different. “I ended up with a deep depression the first few years that I learnt to understand and navigate. Secondly, I lost my fiancé to lymphoma after a long cancer battle.” 

Growth and strength, however, come from the greatest struggles, and Rirhandzu believes that these two life events made her not just appreciate her own mortality but also gave her a greater understanding of how precious life is. “I also realised the importance of mental health, as well as building a community of care to support me,” she says. 

“Having to go through grief at a young age and being faced with depression that took a long time to name was challenging. It made me go through a painful and uncomfortable journey of introspection. It has also shifted my approach to life and what I find important.” 

She believes that the inclusion of people is integral to protecting and restoring the environment and has made it her mission to work closely with rural and peri-urban communities that are closely connected and dependent on nature to help them manage their natural resources more sustainably. 

She also aims to look for opportunities to create livelihoods in a way that would support both people and nature. “I am proud of completing my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in natural sciences and sustainability. I’m also proud of establishing and managing a programme that assists small-scale developments in rural and peri-urban communities with environmental services to ensure that they comply with the necessary environmental regulations while working for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research,” she says. 

“One of my greatest achievements is also establishing and managing the Living Soils Community Learning Farm. The project aims to establish a self-sustaining learning farm that produces food using ecologically regenerative farming methods for long-term food security and incorporating the training of young and emerging farmers.” 

She adds however that above and beyond all her achievements, living life is her achievement first and foremost. 

“Having the will to wake up every day and being granted the opportunity to live and get older is not a guarantee. I am always grateful that I can live and contribute to the lives of others with my life.” 

Rirhandzu is also passionate about empowering young people of colour—especially women, as they can be huge contributors in her industry, she says. “They are mainly labourers and not in management positions. It is rarely the expectation to see a black woman running a project. It has been an interesting and incredible challenge. It is also a pleasant surprise to see this happen more in this space. It is an intentional focus for me, and I try to be a voice by working and leading in this space.” 

She would like to encourage other women to make sure they know what they want to do and then not be afraid to build themselves up in their various sectors and communities. “Don’t be afraid to be yourself and to take up space—be visible and present. To do that, though, you first need to build confidence within yourself, and as a woman—you must build a capability to take up space.” 

Rirhandzu adds that finding a network and community can also help build you up as a woman. “It is important to know you are not alone. What I love most about working with women is that they always work in a space of building each other up and supporting one another. They are always community focused.” 

Cornel de Beer

Cornel de Beer

My life motto: “Always have an attitude of gratitude. There is always something to be grateful for, even in difficult times—we just need to look harder.” 

Just like a protea plant relies on fire to sprout its seeds, the 49-year-old mother of four, Cornel de Beer, likes to sow and nurture the seeds of change in her community. 

Cornel is a shining beacon in her community of Wellington, working amongst others as a volunteer at Moms for Wellington as well as being a safety parent herself. She has a passion for restorative justice that she lives out by being involved with the Hope Prison Ministry and volunteers at House Andrew Murray Child and Youth Care Centre—an institution focused on caring for and developing children in need.

Last, except for her involvement at her church, she also volunteers wherever there is a need to do so. The thing she is proudest of in her life is her family. She also describes being a mother as well as a foster parent as one of the things she loves most about being a woman. “I have an amazing husband, Pieter, that supports me in everything I do, along with my boys and my beautiful daughter.”

“I love to look back and see someone not reoffending and going back to prison. I love to see families reunited and to see someone standing up again because they received a helping hand. I love getting photos from my foster kids and seeing that they are doing well. That makes it all worthwhile.” 

Cornel grew up in Brackenfell with what she describes as her amazing mom, dad and four siblings. Life was, however, not always kind and except for falling victim to crime more than once, she lost both her parents and her brother in the space of 18 months. 

The presence of God in her life and her passion for helping others, however, gave her the power and resilience to bloom and, just like the protea flower, survive practically anything.

“We were taught from a young age to help people and treat everyone with dignity – no matter their class or race. The turning point in my life came while I was doing volunteer work for Hillsong’s community care team in Cape Town. I realised that I cannot wait for other people if I can do something myself—even if it is just something small. Every little thing can make a difference. A plate of food if somebody experiences a loss, a hand to pray, a visit to someone in prison or a hug—you name it.” 

Cornel describes herself as an open person—someone that easily lets people into her life and mostly sees the glass half full. Admittedly mostly more than what it really is, she says. 

She thrives when doing her volunteer work and loves home visits and lending a helping hand—even if it is just to chat with someone or take them chocolate. “It really recharges me knowing that I can reach out and make a difference in someone’s life—albeit it is a drop in the bucket, it is still meaningful.” 

With such a sunny disposition and positive outlook on life, Cornel admits that the great and dire need for help and support in many of the communities throughout South Africa is something that really concerns her. “It is as if society has become very nonchalant about the injustices taking place in our communities. You hear someone speak of a sexual crime in a community, and it is just something that has happened to someone’s mom or grandmother, and they have moved on from it—people aren’t shocked anymore.” 

The proper empowerment of women is also something she believes continuously needs to be worked on. “Especially when it comes to the victims of sexual crimes. There should be a bigger focus on them instead of the perpetrators. We must help these women and young girls understand that they don’t have to be victims and suffer abuse and that they can stand up against this. It is, of course, easier said than done—especially if you stand on the outside—but I believe we must continue with our work. There will never be enough empowerment.” 

Her advice to other women to be their best selves is to stand together, reach out to one another and tell people what they mean to them. “Let’s acknowledge each other, put the crowns back on our heads and tell others what they mean to us.”

Magdaleen Goosen

Magdaleen Goosen

My life motto: “Don’t just count your blessings but be the blessing others count on.” 

The protea symbolises diversity and courage. It’s also a re-seeder, which means that even though the mother plant dies, the population survives thanks to the masses of seeds the plant produced over its lifespan. 

One can also compare the way the 61-year-old social worker Magdaleen Goosen serves her community to that of the mother protea. Her work is far-reaching and impactful—and, most importantly, lasting. “One of my greatest achievements in life so far is having young people all over the world call me mom,” Magdaleen admits. 

She grew up in Robertson and holds a BDiac (Hons) degree in Social Work from Unisa. Magdaleen is currently a social worker at the Stellenbosch International Fellowship, planning and executing camps, outings, and social activities for international students. 

She volunteers at Stellenbosch University’s International Office as well as at the Multi-Lingua Language School. She manages the student house for foreign students and sometimes locals that are in need and is also a member of the committee for the Weidenhof Student House—serving mostly African international students. 

“I grew up in Robertson. My dad had health problems since his childhood leading up to him having a stroke that left him paralysed when I was still very young,” she says. 

As a result, the family was impacted financially. “My family was relatively poor, yet I grew up in a good and healthy family structure. Despite the challenges, my parents modelled dignity, and we learned wonderful values that steered us through difficult times.”

According to Magdaleen, they always served together as a family—even when times were tough. “My family always had something to offer the community, even in times of need, and we lived with open hands to serve others in need.” 

She recalls she was just 17 years old when she arrived at Stellenbosch University as a first-generation student. She had to leave her mother behind alone to care for her frail father. “I struggled to bridge the gap between my life at home and the reality of the campus and finally dropped out of university. Many years later, I however found the courage and the funding to engage in my real passion—to study social work and officially join the helping professions.” 

Carving out a path in the helping professions came naturally to Magdaleen, as her parents were servants at heart amid their own struggles, and it was always modelled to her growing up. “Serving comes naturally as my love language is acts of service,” she admits. “But in my own times of need, I realised that helping others move my focus from my own challenges to those of others.” 

What gets Magdaleen out of bed in the mornings, she says, is the realisation that there is such a great need out there in the world and that she can—with her small input—change people’s circumstances and empower them. “I often have to play the role of the bridge builder between the local community and strangers in order to afford these international students the chance they wouldn’t otherwise get,” she explains. 

What worries her are the various challenges that exist in the country, along with the fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to receive foreign students in South Africa who come here to make a change. The fight to combat racism is also something that lies close to her heart.

“What I love most about being a woman is the ability to live out the softer side of life, to give people that need it that motherly warmth. Our family has, over the years, taken many students from impoverished areas in South Africa, as well as hundreds of students from across the world, into our home and heart. We could build into their lives by living out and showing them Jesus’s love.” 

Today, Magdaleen says, she is immensely proud to represent Christ in many countries around the world. “I experienced the impact of people helping me when I was in need as a young student and also when I lived in a foreign country as the wife of an international student.

“Those challenging times motivated me to pay it forward as I understand the problems people face and what the solutions are while in similar situations. Through the years, I’ve learnt that quality of life is to add value to other people’s lives.” 

Magdaleen says she would motivate other women to be their best selves by encouraging them to count their blessings, but not to stop there—be the blessing other people count on, she explains. The quality of your life is not determined by what you have, but rather how much value you can add to other people’s lives.” 

Siphokazi Silandela-Maseti

Siphokazi Silandela-Maseti

My life motto: “A positive mind will give you a positive life.”

Throughout her life, Siphokazi Silandela-Maseti had to push through adversity and turn it into opportunity. 

The 26-year-old Siphokazi is no stranger to adversity and prevailing no matter what challenges life throws at her. “I grew up in Mbekweni, Paarl. During the last months of my matric year, I fell pregnant. It was the most challenging time I have ever experienced in my life. I was still a teenager, and physically and mentally, it was very difficult. I didn’t know what to do, nor did I have anyone to talk to.” 

The mother of two currently holds a Bachelor’s degree in Community and Health Psychology and is also the founder of the Ikamva Foundation—an organisation that champions various causes in the community, including anti-bullying, career guidance and, among others, assisting youth with tertiary and bursary applications. 

The foundation also focuses on early childhood development and has an aftercare programme for children. Siphokazi also runs a reading club where she teaches children the importance of reading. 

She’s also a postgraduate student, currently furthering her studies in psychology. Siphokazi is determined to become a clinical psychologist. “When I found out I was pregnant, it was a few months before our final matric exams. I battled with how I was going to tell my parents and had anxiety about the pregnancy and my exams. I also had a lot of questions, worrying if I would still be able to go to university.” 

All the stress and anxiety severely compromised her health, and Siphokazi ended up having a premature baby at around seven months. “It was an extremely difficult time for me, but it also ended up being an eye-opening experience as it changed the direction of my studies and led to my passion—psychology.” 

Siphokazi explains that as much as she loves serving her community as it is something that is close to her heart, most of the things she does in her organisation are things she wishes someone had helped her with when she needed the help. 

“Like someone to talk to when I needed to get things off my chest. I, therefore, host girl talks, mental health talks and fun walks. In a few years to come, I will be a psychologist that people can connect with before they reach levels of anxiety and depression,” she says. 

“I needed someone to talk to when I fell pregnant. A lot of bad things could have happened at the time, but I thank God that he always stood by me. I am therefore opening that space [for talk and support] to the girls in my community today.” 

Siphokazi also hopes to break the stigma that exists in her community surrounding mental health and the decision to care for your mental health. “People in my community very rarely take care of their mental health. With other health issues, they will seek help, but not when it comes to mental health. I hope to change that once I qualify as a clinical psychologist.”

Siphokazi had the courage to stay true to herself amid many challenges and says that she is very proud of the person she is today. She believes in the power of positivity and says she tries to be positive in everything she does and in every situation. 

“My greatest achievement is my education. Coming from a difficult background where the situation was not promising at all, I managed to break the stigma and became a game changer,” she says—rightfully proud. 

Serving her community is, however, one of her greatest passions. “I do what I do in the hopes of helping young people and creating the opportunities I wished someone could have helped me with when I was young. Most importantly, however, I do what I do because I love seeing people smile, and I love helping people.” 

If there’s one lesson she would like to teach other young girls, it is to believe in themselves. “Self-love, self-confidence, and good self-esteem—that is what you need. When faced with challenges, be patient with the situation and trust yourself. It’s also important to love yourself and believe in yourself, and with a positive mind, it will be possible to achieve all your goals.”

Wilma Josefs

Wilma Josefs

My life motto: “See the positive and beauty in life.” 

A protea plant’s roots grow almost horizontally just below the soil surface – forming a strong base from which the plant can grow and thrive. 

In the same way, the 47-year-old Wilma Josefs reaches deep into her community, where she tries to make a change and empower the youth in every manner possible. “When I wake up in the morning, I get out of bed with the mindset that it is another day where I can and will make a change. Even if it is just a drop in the bucket—I will make a change in people’s lives.”

Wilma is the mother of two sons, a daughter, and a foster daughter. She is also lucky to be a grandmother to three grandchildren. She’s lived in Lanquedoc for 20 years and knows the community well. 

It is a tight-knit, caring place to live, but issues like poverty and unemployment have caused social evils like drug and alcohol abuse to infiltrate the community and its youth. And this is where Wilma has made it her mission to make a change. 

“There is so much talent here, and I try to help our youth cultivate their talents and, in turn, better their self-esteem and help them rise above the challenges they face. There are many here that succeed in rising above their circumstances, and that makes me very happy.”

Wilma is the founder of the dance group Creative Dancers. She organises youth day events within her community, modelling and talent shows, and acts as a motivational speaker at schools. She also makes time to cook for her community as often as she can and perform as a singer and spiritual dancer at events. 

Wilma also released her first poem collection titled “Hoop” (Hope) in April last year – one of her greatest achievements, she says. 

She is, however, not a stranger to hardship herself. She spent her childhood on two farms in the area, namely Plaisir de Merle and one of the Rhodes Group farms called Ragelsfontein. When she was just 11 years old, she lost her mother. 

“My father started drinking a lot after that, and it was very challenging. He, however, realised he had to stop drinking in time.” 

Fast-forward to two years ago and Wilma’s life was rocked once again when she became a widow. Two of her kids were still in school, and the family suddenly lost its breadwinner.

Wilma is a woman that doesn’t lie down in the face of adversity, and with the help of her strong faith managed to rise above her own circumstances and start helping others. “As a choreographer, I am very proud to see my models and dancers rise above their circumstances. Everything I do is for the love of my fellow human beings and for the love of God to bring change,” she explains.

She says the great need in her community pushed her to a turning point in her life where she was motivated to make a change—no matter how small. 

“I haven’t attended one singing, drama or dancing class in my life; it is just a natural talent I received from God. What motivates me to carry on doing what I am doing is that bucket will never fill up if I don’t make sure I also put water in it. It doesn’t matter if you are old, young, a man or a woman; we all need each other. And if we pool our God-given talents together, we can make a massive difference in our communities.” 

Her advice to other women is to never stand back for anyone. “You don’t have to compete with others. Believe in yourself. You are unique, and believe in what you are capable of doing to make a change.” 

Filida Mhalo

Filida Mhalo

My life motto: “Changing lives. Changing destinies.” 

Life hasn’t always been easy for 56-year-old Filida Mhalo, a pastor at the Moment of Grace Church. She lost her father at a young age, leaving her mother to take care of her and her siblings as a single parent. 

Her father was the breadwinner in the household, and it was difficult at times growing up in poverty, she recalls. 

At the age of 16, she became a mother herself, saddled with the responsibility of taking care of a baby. By the time she was 23, as a mother of two, she suffered a great loss; she lost her own mother. “I had to take care of my children by myself, and I had no support whatsoever. These difficult circumstances, however, built my character,” she says. 

But just like the protea flower—a unique flower with spear-like petals protecting it from the difficulties of the outside world and a thick and strong stem that acts as a strong foundation—Filida rose above these challenging circumstances and found her way to God and to a life of serving her community.

“My greatest achievement in life is that I’ve been serving God for 23 years and started my organisation, the Ndiyeza Ekhaya Community Centre,” Filida says. She also cooks at a community soup kitchen and is a proud mom of seven children, of which two are adopted, two grandchildren and one great-grandchild. 

She recalls the turning point in her life when she met her wonderful husband. He took her with her children, and they got married. “I also got saved—I gave my life to God my Maker. When I saw how my life turned out for the good, it just continued to motivate me to help others,” Filida explains. 

“I have a passion for working with people, and I’m a living testimony as my life motivated me to help and support others. There are so many people who want and need that support, and that is why I do what I do.” 

The fact that she gave her life to God means that she wakes up with a happy heart every morning, Filida says. What concerns her, however, is having to send her children and those of others out into a world where they can easily get sucked in and make the wrong choices. 

“I must trust in God that they will be protected and to guide me on how to look out for them and other children struggling. Children are so important to me—if I can care for them and guide and protect them, then only can I call myself a mother.” 

She says the thing she is proudest of in her life is the ability to work in her community and change lives. “I am proud that by God’s grace, I’m able to do what I’m doing now. I can help and support our children, teens, and elderly people by giving without expecting anything in return.” 

She believes that the empowerment of women and young girls is crucial but not an easy task in society today—especially with all the challenges faced in so many communities. 

That doesn’t stop her, however, from being a guiding light for struggling young girls, teens, and women when their way out of a difficult situation seems unclear. “I try to encourage people and give them hope. I believe with my whole heart that the way I try and approach a situation is to the best of my abilities; and that there is always hope.” 

Heidi Hartzenberg

Heidi Hartzenberg

My life motto: “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” and “This is a stepping stone preparing you for something greater.”

Just like the protea, a woman must be resilient. She must endure. And she must love abundantly, says the 48-year-old mother of three, Heidi Hartzenberg. 

“What I love most about being a woman is the motherly love we get to give. I have my own children, but I work with a lot of children that I get to share that motherly love with. As women, we give a lot, but we also really have so much to offer,” she says. 

Heidi is the Operations Manager for the Paarl Valley Centre of Mosaic Community Developments, which focuses on orphaned and vulnerable children and their caretakers. This includes managing, motivating, equipping, upskilling, job-creating, and sharing the gospel and love, she explains. “It also includes drawing out the talents in people and helping them achieve their goals,” Heidi passionately adds. 

She recalls her childhood in the Eastern Cape town of Grahamstown as fortunate and loving. Her family was close. She, however, still had a path she had to walk on her own until she came to the place where she is today—a place of surrender to Christ. 

“As a child, through my teens and right into my thirties, I felt to seek the unseen. I searched for God but in all the wrong places. New age and Eastern religions lead me to a lot of confusion, hopelessness, unfulfillment and, at last, seeking more—the truth. When I cried out to God for the truth, Jesus opened the door.”

Heidi says the spiritual confusion she experienced during that period of her life was the most challenging experience she ever had to go through. The turning point, however, finding love in Christ and starting her journey in community work was by far the best thing that ever happened to her. 

“I experienced a turning point in my life during my twenties that motivated me to start helping others. I moved from London to Malawi and saw and experienced things like poverty and health issues. It moved me to reach out and help where I could.” 

Later in her life, a very challenging time occurred again, Heidi recalls. After not taking care of herself and with an empty tank, she hit rock bottom. It forced her to make a career change for three years. She, however, yearned to return to community work and helping others. And so that is exactly what she did. 

“My greatest achievement so far is that I’ve come to a place of surrender in Christ. Through Him, I’ve achieved so much. One of those achievements is working for an amazing organisation in a career I love,” Heidi says. 

“Seeing others motivated, inspired, healed and reach their goals through Jesus using me is a great achievement for me.” 

Even though the work isn’t always easy, Heidi says she can’t and won’t do anything else. “It’s my life and my ministry.” 

When asked what the things she is proudest of in her life, Heidi answers without hesitation: “I’m tremendously proud of my beautiful, kind, and smart children. And if I can be so bold to say, I’m proud of the big strong heart God has given me.” 

Going through life, working alongside many people and in different communities, Heidi has learnt many lessons—but there is one she carries with her always: “Respect others and treat everybody the same way. It doesn’t matter if it’s the cleaner, the manager, or the queen of England—they deserve the same treatment and respect.” 

Garine de Wet

Garine de Wet

My life motto: “Push yourself… no one else is going to do it for you.” 

Fynbos, no matter where they grow, adapt to survive, grow, and thrive in the conditions they find themselves in. In the same way, the 50-year-old Garine de Wet had to rely on her inner strength and ability to rise above life’s challenges to survive the difficult circumstances and hardships she had to endure throughout her life. 

Life hasn’t always been kind to Garine, who grew up in Bellville South in what she recalls as an extremely difficult childhood. Her grandmother took her into her care at the age of three months, but the living arrangements were far from ideal. Living in a two-bedroom house, squashed in like sardines, provided its own challenges. “We were six kids from four different fathers, all part of the welfare system and scattered,” she explains. 

A month after Garine’s grandmother passed, when she herself was just 23 years old, her mother was brutally raped and murdered by seven men in Bellville South. She eventually ended up getting married but ultimately separated from her husband, after which 10 years of hardship followed.

“I was a wreck and slept on peoples’ floors. In those 10 years, I lived in 33 different places. But then the turning point finally came. I moved to Wellington, and my life changed because I just had enough. I met the love of my life and had a child with him at 43. I also started studying,” the mother of three explains. 

Being a woman that doesn’t let life or any of its challenges get in her way, Garine received her diploma in marketing at the age of 45. But she didn’t stop there. She’s also since completed a diploma in life coaching and is busy with an advanced diploma in life coaching and digital marketing. 

Garine is also quite literally kicking life’s butt with a green belt in kickboxing—a sport she started doing at 49 years old. She’s also involved with various organisations like the Warrior Woman Programme Against Gender-Based Violence, Hospice, the SPCA and ACVV, as well as the Drakenstein Farm Watch—where she either volunteers, helps with philanthropy or offers her skills as a marketer or life coach. 

She has also worked at the Sunfield Home, where she was able to teach intellectually disabled people to focus on their abilities, which is one of her passions. 

Garine adds, however, that gender-based violence and women empowerment lies close to her heart as she herself is a survivor. “I never spoke about these hardships I suffered—it just never felt safe. It was only after I met and married my husband, Vincent, 13 years ago that I started opening up. I just felt that I couldn’t be held prisoner by these things any longer. Today I speak openly about it in hopes of helping and guiding other women going through difficult times.”

Life, unfortunately, had another hard blow for Garine in 2020 when her 27-year-old daughter, Lyndsay, passed away suddenly for no reason. Lyndsay was in the arts and worked as a project coordinator for the Suidoosterfees before her untimely death. Garine turned her heartache and pain about her daughter’s death into something she can always remember her by, a business called Certified Bang. 

“Lyndsay and her sister Sharnel and I always spoke about starting something where we can combine all our expertise in working with people with disabilities, the arts and youth empowerment to help others. Lyndsay came up with the name. When you come into the world, you are certified. The same goes for when you get married or die eventually. The ‘bang’ comes in when you start developing as a person.”

Garine says she has always lived her life according to the motto of never giving up. There is also no problem on earth that heaven can’t fix—one of her strongest beliefs. “I, therefore, go down on my knees and look up for strength and guidance,” she says.

“I want to correct the wrong that was done unto me, not by revenge, but by spreading kindness, love and hope in the world.  I am a gardener for God.” 

Bronwen Bayman

Bronwen Bayman

My life motto: “Your circumstances do not define you, and your worst life experience can become your greatest gift.” 

The hard exterior of a protea reminds her of the same exterior women tend to form over the years to protect themselves after they have suffered hardships, says the 48-year-old Bronwen Bayman, a mother of three. 

“The shade of pink of the flower makes it very feminine – and then you get that soft interior, of course. [And just like women], I think proteas blossom naturally – if the environment is right.” 

Bronwen holds a BSc Degree in Maths and Statistics from Stellenbosch University. She’s a mindfulness teacher, Enneagram coach as well as an energy healing practitioner. She’s a working professional in her own right, working as a senior fund administrator at Curo Fund Services. 

Bronwen is also the founder of Mindful Practice Pty Ltd and finds time amongst it all to serve on the school governing body of the La Rochelle Girls’ Primary School. She also plays a part in local government as the Ward Council Committee Member for Ward 19. 

“I am the eldest of two children. My parents separated when I was 12, and we moved into my grandmother’s house along with my mother. It was a big, happy, full house with cousins, aunts, and uncles in Suikerbekkie Street, Amstelhof. We had good neighbours, and I could walk across the road to the LK Zeeman Primary School,” Bronwen recalls her childhood fondly. 

In 1994, she became the first student of colour to achieve a distinction in Mathematical Statistics at Stellenbosch University, and she also managed to get a study bursary for her second and final years of study. 

Amid Bronwen’s achievements as a young woman and her drive to pursue her dreams and succeed in life, she has, however, suffered great loss. “I lost my father in 1997, my brother in 2006, my mother in 2012 and my husband in 2013. This left me widowed at age 38 with three young children under six years old,” she explains. 

But there was a turning point. “I developed very strong spiritual beliefs in my late 30s, and having been dealt the blow of losses in my life, I started to seek healing in alternative methods through people that I trusted on my journey. I ended up training in several alternative healing courses that not only accelerated my own healing but gave me passion and purpose to assist others,” this resilient woman says. 

“After the Covid-19 pandemic, I realised that there is a great need for healing and coaching services, and this led me to start a business, the Mindful Practice, within the holistic field last year. Within one year, the business has reached more than 300 people in either group or individual sessions,” she adds proudly. 

She, however, still believes that one of her greatest achievements in life so far is managing to survive and thrive as a single parent of three happy and healthy children. 

“The thing I love most about being a woman is that we are responsible for the birth process. I believe that women, centuries ago, were the more powerful sex of the species. That has since evolved. After all the struggles and movements that happened over decades, I believe that the time now is right to be a woman again. There is a lot of power in being a woman. We should constantly be claiming that power.” 

Bronwen says that she believes empowerment is something that needs to be sparked internally—irrespective of what happens externally. “It requires you to be still, reflective, and mindful. Empowerment is within everyone’s reach—you just have to seek it.” 

At Mindful Practice, she finds great pleasure in facilitating the expansion of the heart and minds of her clients, Bronwen adds. “I get a real sense of fulfilment when I see the eyes of a client light up after a session. I find it extremely rewarding to spark a new appetite for life in others—giving them a sense of empowerment and fuelling their inner transformation process.”