Strong Stellenbosch Women sharing their #IAmTourism stories
“Supporting local is supporting yourself. We all need to support one another, and through that, we can grow” – Professor Thuli Madonsela, chair in social justice at Stellenbosch University.
We’re nearing the end of Women’s Month, although that should never be our excuse to celebrate the strong and wonderful women who contribute to Stellenbosch’s vibrant energy and soul.
This August, we add our voice as Visit Stellenbosch to the #IAmTourism campaign highlighting the importance of tourism to South Africa and the role women play in the tourism sector – some 70% of our tourism workforce are women. Our very own Thembi Koli was one of 31 #IAmTourism women featured in the campaign, which sought to lend a voice to the women in tourism whose voices have been silent throughout lockdown. With characteristic vivacity, Thembi talks about tourism’s ability to bring people from all walks of life together.
“Tourism helps me teach other people about my culture, my beliefs and what makes my country and heritage so special. Just for that reason, I love what I do, and I love to share that knowledge with the people that I escort and meet.” For Thembi, tourism is more than job creation, although that is an important driver.
She calls on her tourism colleagues not to lose hope. Rather, stand tall, live complex and “embrace the change”, she says, acknowledging that these have been difficult times but remaining hopeful that the own will come back stronger from the lockdown.
“Do not sit and wait around for something to happen, get up and change your direction; you are the only one that can change your circumstances.”
Thembi is a beloved ambassador of our town and surrounds, bringing to life the story of its diverse culture and heritage – just a few of Stellenbosch’s assets that attract tourists from all over the world and of which locals are so proud.
Professor Thuli Madonsela may not have been born and bred in Stellenbosch. However, she is first to admit the town’s beautiful allure has captured her heart and soul. “When I came here, the area just spoke to me.”
Thuli talks passionately about the town’s charm, comparing it with Harvard in the USA. “What Stellenbosch has that Harvard doesn’t have are the mountains and the vineyards. It has the same serenity and academic environment as Harvard but has the extra offering of being surrounded by mountains, valleys, and vineyards.”
Proudly Stellenbosch, Thuli cites the town’s “beauty and serenity” as the two things she loves to share when friends and family come to visit.
“If you come from London, for example, you’ll find everything here that you wanted in London minus the busy environment, but with all the same conveniences: the shopping, the restaurants, plus the mountains and nature reserves that you can visit any time.”
Says Thuli: “I love this place”. Stellenbosch is “honestly reckoning with its past and dedicating itself to playing a central role in building the South Africa of our dreams,” she says. “I’d love to be part of that dream.”
Lockdown or not, for people like Thuli and Thembi, Stellenbosch’s opportunities, beauty and experiences are world-class. Unlike the hundreds of thousands of visitors who travel long distances to come and experience what we have to offer, it’s literally on our doorstep and within a moment’s grasp.
Immerse yourself in Stellenbosch’s new art displays, visit our renowned restaurants and wineries for a delectable day out, attend our wildly popular Stellenbosch on Stage, or enjoy the botanical bliss of Stellenbosch and unwind in nature. The day is young, and Stellenbosch is within your reach.
To meet the people of Kayamandi, you can book one of her walking tours with Stellenbosch Township and Village by calling 64 777 9915 / https://stellenboschtownshipandvillage.co.za/contact-us/