Cheryl Carolus: The power of the youth

05 June 2015 | Opinion

“The last time I felt angry and disenfranchised was when I was about 13 years old,” said Cheryl Carolus in her opening remarks at Tshikululu’s recent Serious Social Investing Conference. “I asked myself then,‘ Well, what are you doing to do about it?’”

Carolus is the executive chairperson of Peotona Group Holdings, a company owned and managed by women, and one that puts two-thirds of its profit into the communities in which it operates and from which it draws its workforce. She is also the chairperson of Gold Fields, an international mining company.

As she spoke, Carolus reflected on the state of South Africa in the years post apartheid. “I am old enough to have lived through the horrors of bigotry,” she said, “I carry my scars as a badge of honour. They have created a huge sense of responsibility for me to make a difference.”

Investing in the youth, she said, was extremely important. “I devote so much of my energy to young people. They need to be hopeful. They need to believe that they can change the world.”

Carolus believes that working to create high levels of self-esteem among the youth contributes to them being less likely to engage in risky behaviour – including early and/or risky sex, domestic abuse, and alcohol and drug abuse.

As she directed her attention to the delegates present – individuals involved in the governmental, corporate, non-governmental and academic space – Carolus impressed upon them the responsibility that they hold. “The work that so many of you are involved in is important; you have enormous power. Now, you need to recognise that power, and use it – wisely and for the common good.

“We are it. We are leaders. We need to serve not only in our work, but also in our personal lives. Let’s be active citizens.”