The struggle for financial literacy in South Africa continues
Sonja De Bruyn, 10X Investments Chairman emphatically states: “We need to democratise access to financial products, savings and financial knowledge. This extends to people’s day-to-day understanding of the utilisation of savings and the use of their capital, so that over time it can lead to improvements in the condition of their lives.”
De Bruyn has an impressive career spanning 25 years in the financial industry locally and internationally. One of her most important contributions to the industry has been championing women’s empowerment, a subject she is very familiar with as the daughter of Sophia De Bruyn, an anti-apartheid activist and one of the figureheads of the 1956 Women’s March.
To earn a leadership position for the Women’s March in 1956, there was a lot of work that her mother and the other march leaders (a multiracial team) undertook prior, in their mobilisation and preparations. Sophia worked as a trade union leader and shop steward in her late teens.
Growing up in exile in Zambia with her siblings, Sonja was not fully aware of her mother’s role in the Women’s March. “I knew about the importance of women’s emancipation and equality across race and gender lines, but was not quite aware of the significance of my mother’s own role as that wasn’t the focal point about the march in our home.”
It was only as an adult, after she and her siblings came back to South Africa, that Sonja became aware of the leadership role that her mother had played in the famous march from others.
When it comes to her own beliefs and leadership, Sonja views the role of women from the stance of equity, equality and human rights. She states: “I believe all of us are entitled to opportunities regardless of race, background, religion and gender. Which is our Human Rights Bill’s foundation, that appeals to equity and what is morally correct, especially in a transforming or self-correcting society such as ours.”
Growing up as a refugee in exile, Sonja felt pressure to follow in her parents’ footsteps as an activist due to being on the periphery of Zambian society. However, she did grow up with other South African families in exile that had left the country for the similar reasons as her family.
“My parents ensured that although we were outside the country, our family stayed connected to our South African identity and kept up to date with what was happening in the country.” Something that Sonja is grateful for.
Her parents were able to come back to the country after Mandela’s release in 1990, with their responsibility being to lay the groundwork and infrastructure for other exiled activists returning home. The first time Sonja came to South Africa was in 1991 at age 19, having been the only one in her family born outside the country and, she says, she was quite nervous landing at the airport after the many years of nostalgia and yearning to come back to her home country.
Sonja had seen the difficulties and sacrifices her family and others had made in fighting for freedom. It seemed like a natural decision for her to come back to South Africa so she could make her own contribution and help to make their sacrifice worthwhile.
When she returned to South Africa for good after graduating in 1993, her interest in economic access and improving the material conditions of people was sparked. Although everyone in the county could now vote, there was still so much to be done to improve the socio-economic conditions of most South Africans. Sonja adds that even now there is still a lot of work that needs to be done economically.
“When people are financially literate, it is only then that they can become empowered to make choices that enhance theirs and their families’ lives” De Bruyn says.
“Financial literacy and wellness is not a once-off activity, it is a valuable continuous process to bring about self-actualisation and effective socio-economic change.”
Sonja will be taking part in 10X’s Women’s Month webinar on August 25. She will be joined by Ishani Khoosal-Kala, 10X’s corporate pensions dynamo as well as Asavela Gwele, 10X’s junior investment consultant who is an up-and-coming powerhouse in the finance industry. They will talk about how financial empowerment is a vital aspect of freedom for women. Register to attend the webinar here. DM/BM
The content herein is provided as general information. It is not intended as nor does it constitute financial, tax, legal, investment, or other advice. 10X Investments is an authorised FSP (number 28250)