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#WomensMonth: Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp on why she feels blessed to be a woman

Saturday Star logo Saturday Star 2022/08/17 Sameer Naik

Johannesburg - Celebrated radio and TV host Elana Afrika-Bredenkamp has launched a new podcast to celebrate the beauty of women this Women’s Month.

Her podcast, Boardroom Besties, is a podcast about women who inspire us and creates a safe space for women by women to share ideas and empower one another.

No stranger to podcasting, Afrika-Bredenkamp has also owned, produced and presented SA’s number one parenting podcast since 2016. “Parent and Baby Brunch is all about helping parents.

Now, she hopes to help women at work with Boardroom Besties.

The Saturday Star caught up with the TV and radio presenter, MC, actress and mom-preneur this week to chat about her new podcast.

She also speaks about the women who have had a great influence in her life, including her daughters, her mom, and her aunty.

How delighted are you to have launched Boardroom Besties?

I launched a podcast seven years ago because I felt the need for moms to be supported, and it ended up helping a lot of people. I had a need for myself to be supported as a mom.

This time around, I launched this virtual boardroom because I see how many women are left out of a place where they feel they belong or where they can get back up, whether it be after lockdown, divorce, a lack of cash from when they lose their businesses, whatever it is that tried to get us down.

Also, because before lockdown, we all had this desire to sit around a boardroom or to be part of a trust or to be on a board.

But many women I interview just want to save space for another woman because our boardrooms have become virtual. It doesn't matter as much as it used to, hence the fact that we called it Boardroom Besties. In the environment of a boardroom or work, we are creating friendships of support.

What is the podcast about?

Boardroom Besties are about women that inspire us. They don't just inspire me. They are women who are trailblazers. It's not a money thing. They are not necessarily wealthy, but they’ve done their hours in supporting others, helping people. They have gone through trauma, rebuilt, they've refocused, and now they are paving the way. They are not, but famous for having values and attitude.

Who are the three most inspirational women in your life?

My children have come to teach me many things, and so the most inspirational people that I spent a lot of time with are my children because they are extremely informed, and they are very good at choice and decision making because they are no longer toddlers they are little girls.

But in my personal life, the women that have shaped and formed my life the most are not just three women. There's far more than that.

People like Michelle Koerevaar, who planted a seed for me to start a business and go into a different direction other than entertainment.

My mom, who tried her utmost best, even though when we grew up, there was a time she was really ill and couldn't be there for us. Even through that, she was really a good mom.

My mother-in-law, who I love so much and is my best friend. She is my true bestie. We travel internationally, we have tea together, we cook together. We have good complaining sessions together about our husbands. We love talking about our partners together.

The other woman that inspires me is Doreen Morris. She shaped my career from a young age when I saw her on tv. I wanted to do what she was doing.

But later on, I learnt that she's also kind and friendly and aspirational. And she loves saving and doesn't drink a lot of coffee, and she watches her diet.

Another is the CEO of Laureus South Africa, Marlene Coetzee. She has seen me grow up since I was a young child. Years later, we are working together in a professional space.

What are some of the biggest challenges that women face in South Africa?

There are so many bad opinions out there. It's so much easier to listen to negativity and bad voices. It’s time we bring positive and supportive voices to our youth and women in the workplace, and especially to our wives and women who don't have children.

The discrimination is unreal, even for women who are discriminated against by other women. I had a situation yesterday where I had a woman come and say to me that because she doesn’t have children, she often gets criticised. I can't believe things like that still happen. Do we still do that? Do we as women still drag each other down? That is so old. It's time we support one another!

Do you believe there is still huge inequality in boardrooms across South Africa when it comes to males and females?

I don't want to speak on behalf of corporate SA, but I will speak on behalf of entertainment SA, where I know, having done this for 22 years, that there has always been an inequality in the amount of females in the workplace, females in leadership in the workplace, and even a discrepancy when it comes to salaries.

I am not putting up a podcast to start a fight, but the more we talk about these things in the workplace, the more men will have an understanding and get to learn what they are up against. I don't think men always know.

There have been some remarkable achievements by women in South Africa this year, like Desiree Ellis. How proud and delighted are you for Desiree and everything that she and her team has achieved in the past year?

I’m very proud of our achievements on every level. I am very proud of any achievement that makes headlines because we only have negativity making headlines these days. But I would like to see more positive headlines so that our children know that no matter who you are or where you are from, you can achieve anything. I want my child to see the Desiree Ellis in her.

How important is it that we celebrate women?

I think it's imperative. You won't believe it until today, I go for a run in my neighbourhood, and if a man is walking his dogs, he will think it's okay to leave his dogs on the path while he's walking because I need to run around him. When did a dog become more important than a female runner? I just think it's not just a Women's Month thing. It's a mentality that we need to help our society reshape. We’ve got work to do, and Boardroom Besties is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope it ignites and gives other females the energy to speak up, and men the kind of energy to have these kinds of conversations so that they know what it's about, so that they can help us.

What is the best thing about being a woman in SA and the worst?

The best is being able to give birth, knowing that I can do anything. I thank God I am not a man. I don't say that in a patronising tone, I say it as a blessing. I feel that I have a purpose. I am a nurturer, I’m a mother to many. There is nothing terrible about being a woman in SA other than feeling safe and unprotected in this country.

If you could spend the day with any woman in the world, learning from her. Which woman would you spend the day with and why?

I would like to spend my day with a lady called Deshun, a mountaineer. She does very specific work and is an ambassador for Laureus South Africa. She understands climbing mountains and the difficulties and how long it takes to climb a mountain, and there's so many metaphors in that. I also have a coach, and it's obviously a mental coach. I wish I could have a whole session with her and spend the entire day with her.

I am lucky I found the right coach that I really enjoy, and I really enjoy unpacking ideas of how we can shape our brains to change things and the narrative around us, especially from negativity to positivity, so that's the type of people I want to associate and hang around with.

Tell us about your mom and what role she played in your life?

My mom is one of the few people that moulded me. My mom's role was very important. When she got ill when I was just five years old, I remember the day, and I also remember her absence for a while because she was in hospital and so we were raised by a dad, who was very hands-on, an aunt who has passed on now, who had cancer, and my sister, who is eight years older than me. She is British and no longer lives in SA. Those were the women who raised me until mom got back. My mom was different when she went into the hospital and different when she came out. She had a scar to her head, and I really enjoyed the mom that came out of hospital. She was more courageous, and she was less emotional, and she taught me how to be courageous and how to speak up for myself. I learnt how to reflect and speak to bullies, and my mom taught me that . My mom also taught me how not to be petty.

All these other people shaped me in more ways than you can imagine. There are no podcasts long enough to discuss my aunt Debbie and my sisters' roles in my life.

The Saturday Star

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