This Social Entrepreneur Thrives On Education, Creating Climate Change Awareness And Female Empowerment
From a young age, Catherine Constantinides surrounded herself with people she could learn from, but her biggest strength is extracting value from experiences and opportunities.
When she was 16, she knew that her greatest calling was to be a change-maker, so she set up her own company to fund the climate and environmental work she was doing. “I’d approach businesses to donate money or trees to plant, through my organisation, Generation Earth,” she says. This work led her to become Miss Earth South Africa in 2003 and she became a representative for the country.
Fixing A Nation
Catherine was one of the top students in her law and anthropology degree at Wits, however, she was unable to finish due to financial reasons when her father became ill. But there was a silver lining. “Not being able to complete my tertiary education gave me the opportunity to go to Cambodia, Japan, Philippines and Vietnam to harness my environmental awareness work at a grassroots level,” she says. Catherine lived in a grass hut with a family who didn’t understand English and this gave her a better insight into the challenges people face across the world. “All the real experiences allowed me to become who I am today,” she says.
When she returned home, Catherine continued to grow her passion for addressing social justice issues in SA. In 2013, she was invited to join the Archbishop Tutu African Oxford Fellowship and the academic-based leadership programme opened many doors for her. “The platform invites young professionals, who have a post-graduate degree, and I got a place, it was a great honour and a humbling validation of the work I had taken on,” she says. In 2016, she received an invite to be part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. “It was in the US and it was a learning milestone from an academic and leadership perspective,” she explains.
Be Brave, Be Fearless
“I started out as a social entrepreneur at a time when I didn’t even think I would be one. I was brave enough to make mistakes and learn from them,” she says. Catherine believes everyone has the ability to challenge their frame of mind and to open themselves up to seeing things from a different perspective. “Leadership is leading and learning from where you are every day,” she adds. Catherine explains that it’s taken time to be a leader in her space, but she’s on a constant journey to be the best version of herself.
Go on and hustle!
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