Her story of early-life beginnings is resonant with the majority of young girls born in rural KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Challenges such a lack of access to piped water, electricity, basic sanitation and infrastructure characterised her upbringing in Vuma village at Showe, north of KZN, by her grandmother.
Her name is Nomkhosi Luthuli, aged 27.
In her formative years, she had to be separated from her Methodist cleric father who worked as a preacher at Nongoma and primary school teacher mother who, at the time, was still studying towards her education degree.
Still, Luthuli’s prowess, love for education and strong self-discipline propelled her to build up a strong CV which featured three degrees (two at post-graduate level) as well as professional experience which included working in the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (KZN EDTEA) as a regional and local economic development researcher.
All this before the age of 30.
Luthuli is currently a lecturer who teaches at postgraduate level in the prestigious University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) Graduate School of Business and a PhD candidate who hopes to have submitted her thesis by the end of 2017.
Luthuli holds a Bachelor of Community and Development Studies from the UKZN as well as a Bachelor of Social Science Honours in Development Studies from the University of Cape Town (UCT). She also holds the degree of Master of Commerce in Local and Regional Economic Development.
Luthuli felt she still had lots to accomplish. In 2015, Luthuli was invited to form part of the experts who were mandated to establish the Aerotropolis Institute of Africa, an aeronautical institute which seeks to boost the continent’s aviation industries.
“I am obsessed with greatness. For now, I feel like there is still more to achieve. My 20s were about self-development, and I think I have done a fair job in that. However, it is in my 30s where I will unleash my greatness,” announced Luthuli.
“As a Doctor of Philosophy focusing on Regional Economic Development, Agglomeration Economics and the Aerotropolis, I will be in a better position to influence policy and drive development.”
“Education, for me, goes back a long way. It is about fulfilling a purpose which I have for my community. I want to be able to go back to my community and tell the girl-child that it is possible to get a degree up to a Doctorate because I could. I am not special or different. I was not even the smartest or highest achiever in high school but I was able to advance because of hard work. I want young women in my community to know how hard work can develop one’s life,” said Luthuli.
Luthuli said one of her greatest areas of passion was gender issues. Luthuli did not mince her words when she argued that: “South Africa was lagging behind with regard to women empowerment and patriarchy remained at large.”
“Generally, a man is assertive and thinks he is always right. A man knows that he can enter a room, assert his stance and be comfortable and confident without expecting judgement.”
“A woman, on the other hand, is always forced to resort to being unapologetic. I always tell my colleagues, friends and sisters that when they walk into that room, they must believe that they are there because they deserve to be there as much as anyone else and they have earned their right as everyone present,” said Luthuli.
Luthuli said her biggest inspiration with regard to leadership skills was her mother and academic supervisor who believed in her at times when she did not even believe in herself. “Through these individuals, I have been able to build my emotional intelligence to deal with the challenges and some of the people I have to interact with on my journey of life.”
Luthuli noted that her journey “had not been smooth sailing” and it came “at a great personal cost”.
“I have had to miss a lot of funerals, birthday celebrations and events. In the past three years, I don’t think I have slept for more than five hours at a time, I haven’t gone back home as often as I should have. I have not been as present for some people and indeed, for people who don’t understand the journey, I have been a bad friend. However, all of this comes with the territory,” said Luthuli.
“I strongly believe that this will all be worth it in the end because it comes from a place of genuine love for my community, province, country and continent.”
“The challenge of leadership in Africa, in general, calls on all of us, young people to use our skills and potential to become active in issues of economic, social and political development so that the future of the continent is greater than what current indicators show,” Luthuli said.