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Fawzia Peer

Former Deputy Mayor of eThekwini Municipality,
the Vice President of Minara Chamber of Commerce
as well as the Chairperson of Minara Business and
Professional Women

Fawzia Peer has had 26 years’ experience in the Democratic Local Government where she has spent a significant period leading on decisions for positive change and transformation of Local Government.

Prior to the dawn of democracy in South Africa, in the early nineties, Fawzia realised she had to invest in virtues. She commented, “Instinctively I knew where my calling was, if I wanted to see positive change around me, I knew I had to invest in women and the youth as active agents, for that to happen. My heartfelt desire was to have influence and power to make this happen. The power to breakdown poverty and inequality. The influence of the Government that I was leading in and becoming the agent for change to take place. This is who I am, a politician, an activist, a businesswoman and a community changer.”

As an Indian woman in politics, Fawzia has faced many barriers and obstacles, both relating to race and gender. However, she has had the mind-set that challenges are opportunities to be faced. “I was always determined to turn challenges that I faced into positive opportunities. The world of politics and business is alike in many ways. One has to be tough skinned to succeed in achieving success. There will be people along the way attempting to place barriers in your path and feeding into one’s own belief of oneself. One has to be strong minded to overcome these.”

We are invincible together

In reflecting on her journey, Fawzia said an important lesson she has learnt is that she hasn’t succeeded alone but has been supported by some incredible women. “Women are so powerful when we stand together; we are invincible together,” she says.

Fawzia added she would say that she is a people’s person and one of her most important achievements is the relationships with people she has fostered over the years. “People matter to me. One has to be bold but in doing so one should aim to take people with you along the way. No man is an island, we are as good as our weakest link. We need to embrace working together in the truest sense of the word.”

In the future, Fawzia hopes to continue her political career and instead of retiring she would like to help NGOs find their way through the Covid-19 pandemic. She commented that to create sustainable change, NGOs need to realise the importance of working with other non-profits, local government, businesses as well as the communities they serve. This collaboration with the various partners on the ground will deepen the impact and create meaningful and sustainable improvements in stopping any form of duplication in the distribution of relief to the needy.

In addition, Fawzia wants to focus on the “Experienced Economy”. She believes that older adults, the 50 plus age group are the largest talent pool in history. They, she explains, are an untapped economic engine, which we have to focus on because their experience is too valuable to ignore. In order to access this experience, a platform has to be designed to catalyse cross – generational experience and integrate it into the fabric of community so it benefits the entire community. In so doing we will be able to optimise the value of the older adults’ experience and boost prosperity for people of all ages.

Find your calling

In giving advice to younger women, Fawzia stresses that it is essential to find your calling! “When you align yourself with that calling, magic happens. Do not be afraid to fail. It is part of a cycle to success. Create a long-term plan and break that down into bite size, achievable goals, but also allow for deviations in that plan. Keep going, never give up on your calling. Do not listen to the naysayers. Find a way to incorporate your business idea into helping humanity by adding a strong social upliftment angle. Always give back where you can.”

“One quality I most admire in women is humility… this doesn’t mean that if you are humble, you are weak or unsure of yourself. It means you have the self-confidence and self-awareness to recognise the value of others without feeling threatened. You have to be a very determined woman. So please be a non-quitter, be persistent,” Fawzia added.

A positive mind-set

Similarly, to many other women with careers, ensuring a work life balance has been a challenge for Fawzia. She explained that one has to adopt a positive mind-set that is encouraging to others. “A degree of positive risk taking is helpful too when one takes on leadership roles. Little failures should be seen as steppingstones to successes or else one becomes broken many times.”

She also says that women need to develop the ability to be a quick thinker because women are confronted with many emergencies in our family lives.

In conclusion Fawzia said, “Currently and in the future, we will have many roles to play in our life. However, the most important role is how we lead our own life. Only two things matter in the end: who you became; and how many lives you touched. Live a life that matters!”

Fawzia Peer
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