Vinolia Fortuin – South Africa

Vinolia Fortuin – South Africa

Date: July 18, 2012
  • SHARE:

I am a councillor in the Mossel Bay Municipality in the Western Cape, in Ceres. I am the head of the Social Services & Local Economic Development Portfolio, and the youngest female member of the Executive Mayoral Committee within the council. I was elected as a member of the Executive Mayoral Committee in the local government elections that took place last year, and I am a member of the Democratic Alliance Partner.

I grew up in a very poor household – let us begin there. With 10 other siblings, I have first-hand experience of poverty and I know what it means to struggle and not have anything. I often have moments when I reflect on where I have come from. Growing up in poverty made me determined to have a better life.

Growing up in the ghetto prepared me for what was awaiting me in terms of my life; perhaps this is why I ended up in politics. My upbringing made me realise that it was important for me to always stand up for my rights. It helped to shape and mould me, because at the end of the day, my reality was a very harsh one, where it was based on a survival of the fittest mentality.

I had my first encounter with Gender Links at the COE-Implementation Workshop that took place in July 2011 within our council; there was a subsequent follow up workshop in February 2012. However, I know that the council has built a very close relationship with Gender Links. They have provided a lot of guidance and assistance to our council and this has helped us tremendously.

I learned a few things at the Gender Links workshop, and the one thing that really stuck with me was the section where we were taught about stereotypes. I am 27 years old and I head a very important council portfolio. However, people often think because I am young, and a female, my knowledge would also be limited. This has been a very difficult point for me, because I often feel that I need to work harder and smarter to prove that I am capable of delivering. Sometimes I feel that women are not taken seriously, and I feel that I need to change that perception.

As a young female politician, I feel that I am making a difference in the lives of my community. I am a young person, so I am able to communicate with the younger generation more effectively, as well as the older generation. For example, we recently had an activity where we were raising awareness on the abuse of the elderly, and it was my duty to get the younger people on board. I think talking in the same lingo as the younger generation makes them feel that they are also part of the solution to the problems in the community.

My approach as politician also shows the difference I am making as a leader. I believe I am making an impact in people’s lives, because I am always active in community activities. It is very important for the community to see their leaders actively involved in issues that affect them directly. The issue of substance abuse is also something very rife in some of our communities, and this is something that is thriving particularly in the poorer communities. As a politician I have been able to make sure that the local NGO’s that work with issues of substance abuse are in joined partnership ventures with the council to address these issues.

Some of the tough experiences that I have witnessed as a young politician is that there are a lot of power struggles within the communities, and sometimes the politics play out in the communities. This can be a problem, as there are issues that need to be dealt with. We need to empower people living in our communities instead of entertaining political dynamics. Other tough experiences have been the way in which women and children still continue to suffer in our communities. I have a great passion and a vested interest in local economic development, and I often feel that we are not doing as much as we can to ensure the full emancipation of women and those who are vulnerable from economic dependence and unemployment.

Some of the best experiences that I have had would be to see the change that I see our work makes in the lives of others. It can be something very small and insignificant to the next person, but when someone shows you gratitude and appreciation, that makes me feel that I am in the right place after all.

The training that I received from Gender Links has actually made a great impact on me, because I think that as a female politician I have always felt that I need to be extra tough to be taken seriously. I am not a tough cookie at all, and I guess that there are some barriers that women politicians do face even though these may not always be visible. After the training, I went home and had a moment to reflect on my journey as a politician thus far. Politics are tough, but being a female politician I believe women bring in a sensitivity and understanding that can be lacking in some of our male counterparts.

I think I owe my success to a lot of mentors, but for me Councillor Hendry Levendal, the Deputy Mayor of the council has been my role model. He has provided me with a lot of guidance and assistance and invaluable advice. I am also very grateful to the women of my community and my family who have all raised me and moulded me to become the woman that I am today. I see myself as the next Lindiwe Mazibuko and perhaps even one day I may even be the Mayor of the Municipality or even the Premier of the Western Cape. I still have a lot of work lying ahead of me, but when I look at where I came from and where I am heading, the horizon certainly looks much better. I have a lot of hope in South Africa as a country. We come together in times of need, and as a politician I will continue to make a difference wherever I can, and empower those around me.


Comment on Vinolia Fortuin – South Africa

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *