August is a special for Engen. It is Women’s Month, and it provides the company with an opportunity to reflect upon its commitment to helping gifted South African women explore new horizons.
Babalwa Pendlani is one of many young women whose horizons have broadened thanks to Engen.
Despite growing up in the dusty streets of Motherwell, Port Elizabeth, Babalwa completed her schooling, starting out at Empumalanga Public Primary School before moving on to Masiphathisane Senior School, where she matriculated with a Bachelors pass.
Being the first person in her family to attend university is a great honour to Babalwa and the culmination of the enormous effort and sacrifice of two women who consistently encouraged and provided despite challenging circumstances.
“I was raised by two amazing women, my mother and my grandmother,” explains Babalwa. “But my mother lost her job in 2011 and my brother and I were raised on a child support grant and my grandmother’s social grant.”
Babalwa heard about the Engen Maths and Science Schools (EMSS) when some of her school friends began attending the supplementary maths, science and English lessons offered. She then applied and was selected to join the EMSS grade 11 group, which attended classes at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth.
Babalwa attributes her improved maths and physical sciences school marks directly to the EMSS.
“At first, I didn’t like physics but I grew to love and enjoy it all thanks to the EMSS physics teacher who provided me with many question papers from my seniors to inspire me, and made learning fun and easy!”
On completion of matric and thanks to Engen’s Bursary Programme, Babalwa was able to study for a Bachelor of Sciences degree at Rhodes University, majoring in Chemistry and Geology.
She believes that life is there for the taking and that determination and grit plays a big role.
“Attitude is everything,” says Babalwa. “The way you see life and the results of your action will all depend on your attitude.”
At the same time she recognises that the fear of failure spurs her on. “I am so scared of failure so whenever I’m under pressure or stress, I always tell myself I am not a failure and that I can do it and I will do it.”
Upon graduation from university, Babalwa was invited to join Engen’s Graduate Development Programme and currently works in the Lubricants Supply Chain Department in Durban.
“Since I started working, I have learned that whilst positive self-talk is good, instead of saying I can do it, I choose to do it. I now know that I am free to choose who to be.
“And as much as I want to make my parents proud, I also want to make myself proud. I know that I will only be able to say I am truly proud of myself when I have contributed to someone’s life.”
Babalwa can look ahead with confidence and is grateful for the choices she has regarding her future. Making a meaningful difference is her passion and drives her forward.
“During my high school career, I was able to attend the Maths and Science Programs because I was good at the subjects,” she says. “But looking back, I can see that many of my classmates were not passing. Many were sad that they were not able to pass. Learners need someone who can encourage them, someone who will tell them that they matter and that is why I would really love to be a life coach at some stage!”
Like most people, Babalwa dreams of career success and improving her knowledge. And whilst she is contemplating studying further to increase her qualifications, she is also considering pursuing her goal to change her world by becoming an encouraging voice to others who need encouragement.
“Now, thanks to Engen, I can decide if I want to continue working in the industry or I want to be an academic,” she says.
The empowerment of black women is a top priority for Engen. According to Unathi Njokweni-Magida, Engen’s head of Transformation and Stakeholder Engagement, the company is focused on integrating more women across the entire value chain.
The statistics point to the success of Engen’s strategy, with a 46% of Engen retail dealerships now black-owned, 10% of them women-owned. The Engen Limited board comprises 45% black members, and 22% black women, while the Engen management committee is 54% black and 31% black-female.
On the company’s commitment to education, Njokweni-Magida explains that Engen supports excellence and opportunity amongst the youth right from school through to university.
“We are working actively to build a pipeline of black and female graduates, for the future good of the company and the country. We are proud to give Babalwa her wings and look forward to watching her fly,” adds Njokweni-Magida.
By continuing to attract and grow the minds and talents of young women like Babalwa Pendlani, and to shape the careers of gifted graduates, Engen is forging ahead on its journey to make positive change.
Helping talented South African women to explore new horizons proves once again that as a company, Engen is committed to helping build a prosperous future for all South Africans.