With a mind for business and a heart for helping others, it should come as little surprise that Cwenga Koyana has been named one of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) inspirational graduates for 2022. She joins a select group of past and present UCT students who have made an impact on the university, their friends and family, and their community.
Despite her plethora of achievements over the course of her studies – the most recent of which includes being part of the team that took one of the top spots at the UNESCO and Women@Dior Conference – Cwenga remains modest. “I feel humbled and honoured to receive such a prestigious award; I am extremely grateful,” she said about being named as one of UCT’s inspirational grads.
A values-driven life
Speaking with Cwenga about her life thus far, it quickly becomes evident that the caring spirit and industrious attitude that have earned her this title is in her blood. “I grew up in a Christian home in Johannesburg, raised by both of my parents. I was also privileged to have my grandparents play a significant role in my upbringing.
“Our family is values-driven with our faith, education, respect and work ethic being strongly inculcated throughout my life. My parents worked in corporates while I was growing up and always strived to make names for themselves in business. They are now entrepreneurs and serve as non-executive directors on the boards of various companies,” she said.
“My parents believe in quality education, so good institutions are prioritised – and UCT is one of those.”
This determination and desire to uplift shines through when looking at Koyana’s involvements throughout her academic career (she has been a member of both Startup Grind UCT and the Entrepreneurs Society) and discussing why she chose to study her Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Performing Arts at UCT. “The strong academic and research-oriented aspect of the UCT drama offering appealed to my desire to have an understanding of this field.
“My parents believe in quality education, so good institutions are prioritised – and UCT is one of those. The objective is not only to obtain the skill set, but also to gain the knowledge so that I can equally contribute to the development of the entertainment industry,” she explained.
The university’s reputation for being an active contributor to its people and community as well as its strong affiliation to many charitable causes likely didn’t hurt either. “Community service has been an integral part of my education throughout my academic career,” Cwenga noted.
An innovative approach to change
The drive to help others is in no small part to thank for this budding entrepreneur cum philanthropist’s inspirational graduate status. She was one of five young African women on a team that took part in the UNESCO and Women@Dior Women Leadership & Sustainability Education Program.
Charged with presenting a social impact initiative under the theme “Dream For Change”, the team devised an initiative that assists pregnant teens. The organisation, called Talitha Together, focuses on providing in-person and online antenatal and postnatal classes taught by trained professionals.
The idea and innovative approach to a widespread issue won the team the top spot at the Dream for Change conference in March 2022. Part of this can likely be attributed to Cwenga’s presentation of the initiative and her ability to capture an audience due to her performing arts training.
“Performing arts has skilfully trained me to communicate confidently and convincingly to any audience. So, this certainly helped me to clearly convey the objectives of our social impact initiative, which is to empower pregnant teens, at the UNESCO and Women@Dior conference,” she said.
Making an impact in all areas
In addition to her contributions to improving the lives of teenage mothers, Cwenga has also been involved in bringing women together as an ambassador for the End Girl Hate movement. The initiative, which started out as a social media campaign in South Africa and has since gained traction across the globe, aims to “unite, empower, inspire and connect women and girls through sisterhood”.
As an End Girl Hate Ambassador, she is actively involved in representing the organisation in the spaces in which she finds herself, bringing its ethos into her world, community and university.
“I truly believe women can change the world for the better when we unite in sisterhood.”
In her opening statement in the role, the inspirational graduate noted her desire to uplift and encourage other women. “I want to be part of End Girl Hate because it is a platform that encourages women and girls to connect, support and inspire one another. I truly believe women can change the world for the better when we unite in sisterhood,” she explained.
Cwenga has also been involved in Value ed, an organisation that helps young Africans find their passion and upskill themselves, as well as her own production company, Katlego Productions, through which she provides entertainment and hosting services at corporate and social events.
After completing her honours degree, she said, she has no set path that she would like to follow. Rather, she wishes to let her faith guide the way, and seeks to make the most of every opportunity she comes across.
“As I finish my honours in film and television studies at UCT to solidify my understanding of the entertainment industry, I’m open to what the future holds. I trust God with my future and that he will open doors, and I will explore each and every opportunity presented to me,” she said.
When asked to share a piece of wisdom she believes has been integral in helping her reach the heights of success she has thus far, Cwenga once again emphasises hard work and paying it forward.
“UCT is a great institution that offers various opportunities. As students, we need to be curious and engaged in order to maximise on them. Our global icon, the late former President Nelson Mandela, said, ‘The future is in our hands’ and ‘It seems impossible until it is done’. We are privileged to have these opportunities and we have the responsibility to uplift others,” she remarks.
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