Name: Lebo Maroo
Job: Deputy CEO of LoveLife
Dr Maroo is a member of the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), SAMA and the Medical Advisors Group, a subsidiary to SAMA. She was also twice nominated for the 300 Top Women in Business and Government Awards.
Based in Centurion, Pretoria, her family is very important to her. She is blessed with three children, all girls; they are her pride, joy and everything she could have asked for.
The theme for Women’s Month this year is: Pledge for parity. What does this theme mean for you personally? How do you respond to this theme?
The Pledge for Parity theme means a few things to me:
- It is a recognition of the slow pace in which policies are implemented.
- It gives me hope that the world is talking about gender inequality and looking for solutions to speedup progress.
- That we are still far from achieving gender parity in the workplace, within our communities, churches and even in our homes so we need to accelerate educational and communication tools at platforms where we engage various stakeholders.
- It’s about time that we all (both women and men) work together to accelerate the move towards gender equality.
- Ending violence against women and girls
One can either choose to support the theme and focus on working even harder in contributing towards achieving gender equality, or spend time analysing whether the theme makes sense or not. Personally, I choose to work with it, I take it as an opportunity to reassess my personal contribution to society for the next 12 months.
I try to do my bit, I always feel somewhat dissatisfied though, with a desire to do more. I have a few projects of my own that I am involved in. I am currently working with a young man whom I have just taken under my wing as his mentor as I believe that men are an integral part of the solutions towards equality. This is new for me as I have never really mentored a male before.
Furthermore, I am also currently assisting a friend of mine from Botswana to put together a campaign for free sanitary pads in an effort to keep young girls in school. This is very exciting to me as the project owner is actually a man, a father, a brother; who sees a need to contribute towards empowering a girl child with education.
I used to go to my daughter’s schools to give talks to young girls, I would really love to continue doing that, any opportunity to influence a young girl’s life positively; is a right move towards achieving parity.
According to the World Economic Forum, equity will only be achieved by 2133, how do you contribute to the struggle for gender equality?
That statement sound so unrealistic, 117 years is a very long time; especially because these discussions are not new. However, at the pace in which transformation is happening this a more likely reality unless concrete action is taken to fast track gender equity. We need to foster short term goals and achievements that will mark a journey of a thousand miles but must begin with a single step.
I am lucky to be in a position where my work revolves around young people. We engage with young people daily through the different programmes that loveLife implements in schools, clinics and in the communities; through sports, dialogues, multimedia campaigns and so forth.
We believe that to achieve behavioural change we should begin with creating self-awareness and education which ultimately lead to leadership. We also provide psychosocial support to young people and their families on a variety of issues including gender based violence as a form of gender inequality. This is what we do for the communities we serve, but, as the saying goes, “good deeds begin at home”; therefore the workplace must also be reflective of the work we do on the ground. Our employees are not only forces of change within their communities, they are also responsible for promoting gender equity within their respective positions.
What have been some of your major obstacles and challenges personally and in terms of gender equality?
I do not believe that my challenges in terms of gender equality are any bigger or different from those of other women out there. Like others, I always had to work harder, put in longer hours, while earning much less than my male counterparts
Spending too much time at work away from my children, especially when they were much younger was the hardest challenge for me. Yes, it came with the kind of work I did then, but my male counterparts were always referring to how they would go home and sleep after being on call all night, whereas I had to go home and be a mother to my children who had to learn at an early age that their mother would not be home for some nights, including weekends and public holidays. I remember being labelled a bad mother by my ex-husband when my child fell sick at school and they couldn’t get hold of me while at work.
As a woman I continually have to break through glass ceilings to try and earn my rightful place in society. It doesn’t help much when those closest to you are mostly the ones who expect you to conform.
Knowing what you know, what advice do you have for young women today?
Girls and young women in South Africa today have to deal with so many challenges, sometimes they lose hope along the way and then helplessness creeps in.
I advise and encourage young women to ask for help when they feel they need it. This is not always an easy thing to do, therefore we need to create an environment where they would feel free to ask for help.
Issues of unemployment, teenage pregnancy, and early school dropout and many others are a reality affecting young women.
Education is key. I would encourage all young women to finish school. Dreams are achievable through education. They can do so much more with their lives with education.
Although a lot has been achieved to close the disparity gap in South Africa; there is still much more that needs to be done. It’s not only the government’s responsibility but also by families, businesses, civil society, religious organisations etc. to ensure that young women are be empowered to be their best selves and to achieve whatever goals they set for themselves.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
My younger self was a determined young girl, who loved school and was always called to the front at a school assembly for being the best kid in my class and grade.
I was confronted with making difficult decisions at a very young age, without parental assistance. I was surprised by how much of my mother’s early teachings were instilled in me. As I grew I navigated through life on my own, I always remembered things my mother taught me and these enabled me to make the best decisions for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t always make the right choices, but I couldn’t be happier with the younger me, her mistakes and challenges have molded me into the woman I am today.