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Dr Velo Govender - Life is about never giving up, it’s about how you restructure your life

Social worker

Dr Velo Govender is a social worker by profession. Her journey through life is a testament to her dedication to her family, her profession, and her thirst for knowledge.

Velo recently celebrated her 27th wedding anniversary with her husband, Ricky Govender, who she says is an incredible man. Together, they have raised two children, Jishnavi and Mishen, aged 25 and 21 respectively, who are both embarking on their journeys into adulthood as civil engineers.

Professionally, Velo wears two hats, juggling two significant roles and says that she is a ‘busy body’. Velo is not only an Individual and Family therapist but holds the position of Marketing and HR Executive at her husband’s company, JRV Spares & General. Balancing these two roles speaks volumes about her ability to manage multiple responsibilities and excel in different domains.

Velo is currently the chairperson of one of the largest NGO’s in KZN, the Ubuntu Community Chest, where they allocate funds to over 98 non-profit organisations. Her professional journey commenced in the non-governmental organisation (NGO) sector, where she devoted over 15 years to working with children and the elderly. During this time, she was involved in community development and providing support to vulnerable children.

Life, however, presented new challenges as she navigated the roles of a mother and a wife to a husband, who was committed to his business. Recognising the need for flexibility in her career to balance her various responsibilities, Velo decided to pursue part-time employment at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and the University of South Africa.

“It was a privilege to have the flexibility to continue my career while being a devoted mother,” said Velo. During this period, she took on a master’s degree in social work at UKZN.

“Through this all we were able to grow the business and Ricky worked seven days a week to accomplish a lot during that time, while I still was trying to strike the balance between family, home and my career,” commented Velo.

Next generation

As their children have reached pivotal stages in their lives, Velo has shifted her focus toward empowering them to become successful individuals.

Her daughter, Jishnavi, has recently graduated and started her first job in Cape Town. Velo sees her role as motivating her daughter to achieve more at a younger age, as she believes that Jishnavi has an entrepreneurial mindset. Her son, Mishen, is being groomed by her husband, Ricky, to become involved in the business, as they believe he has the ability to influence the vision of the business. Velo has had a lot of achievements in her journey.

An inspiring aspect of Velo’s journey is her recent achievement of obtaining a PhD at the age of 51. She completed the writing of her thesis in one and half years, despite numerous medical challenges.

She commented, “I think it has shown that no matter how old you are, that anything is possible. Through a lot of dedication, commitment, and resilience I was able to find the balance between my career, home as well as my studies and still be able to fulfil that dream of actually obtaining my PhD.”

Her research focused on the Impact of Neoliberalism and New Managerialism on social workers within the child welfare sector. This study delved into the myriad challenges faced by social workers for many years and the imperative need for lasting solutions and change.

The culmination of her research was marked by a breakfast event attended by her sample group of 130 social workers, where Velo shared her findings. Notably, the National Minister of Social Development, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, attended the event and was the keynote speaker.

Velo commented, “The Minister applauded me for the efforts that I made to take the study forward and talk about the results and for bringing the social work community together. As she said, many people do studies and then normally put them away on a shelf to collect dust.” And, says Velo, giving social workers a voice to address their challenges is critical; through her study she is hoping to advocate for policy and managerial practice changes.

Vision for the future

Her vision extends to her husband’s construction spares business, as they are determined to take the company to into global and southern African markets.

For young women aspiring to make their mark in the world, Velo’s journey stands as an inspiring example. She emphasizes, “It is very important to utilise available resources, leverage your knowledge and skills to achieve your goals, and network with the right people, even when you may not initially recognise who they are.” Knowledge and skills are invaluable assets, and she encourages young women to seize every opportunity to pursue their goals with unwavering determination.

Currently, Velo is running collaborative training workshops for women in different skills such as technology and finance.

Power of determination

Velo’s life journey has not been without its challenges, life is tough she says. A critical health issue disrupted her life five years ago when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour. “Life just came to a standstill. I did not even get a chance to clear my office desk,” said Velo. Her challenges included post-operative facial nerve complications as well as not being able to speak, a problem with her eyes and short-term memory issues.

After a one-and-a-half-year recovery period, Velo decided that God had given her a second chance of life for a reason. She now uses her position to work with other people being diagnosed with critical illness.

Velo added, “Life is about never giving up, it’s about how you restructure your life, how you prioritise. Even if you don’t have the resources find a way, you’ll see anything’s possible.”

On being nominated for KZN Top Business Women, Velo says, “I’m hoping that this will create a platform for me, as a social worker, to give women a voice, and be an advocate for women that says, you are being heard.”


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