Akhona Makalima Inspires Women During Imperial’s Global Women’s Forum

Keynote speaker Akhona Makalima inspired women with her inspirational learnings at the Imperial Logistics Global Women’s Forum (GWF) on on Friday 17 March. In this file photo, FIFA Accredited Referee Akhona Makalima is congratulated on winning the by Esha Mansingh, Imperial Logistics Executive Vice President: Corporate Affairs and Investor Relations, at the 2022 Momentum gsport Awards, at the Wanders Club in Illovo, Johannesburg, on 14 September, 2022. Photo: Meghan McCabe (c) gsport

Internationally accredited South African, CAF and FIFA referee, Akhona Makalima who has been recognised for her long list of sporting achievements, was the keynote speaker at the Imperial, a DP World company, Global Women’s Forum (GWF) on Friday 17 March, as part of the company’s International Women’s Day celebrations held in March.

gsport partner Imperial, a DP World company, extended an invitation to the #gsport17 award winner, to share her story with the female workforce of their business, themed around gender equality as experienced in her professional football career.

01 out of 11 Key Inspirational Take Outs from Akhona Makalima:

“Don’t let circumstances or lack of resources be the reason you don’t follow your dream”

Being the first GWF for Imperial hosted under the DP World banner since the acquisition of the company by DP World in 2022, Makalima delivered an awe-inspiring talk to over 200 women from the Ports and Terminals businesses, logistics businesses and market access businesses within the group. 

Introducing the highly accredited Makalima, Imperial, a DP World company, Executive Vice President: Corporate Affairs and Investor Relations, Esha Mansingh said: “My affiliation with Akhona came last year through the gsport Awards which uplifts and celebrates, in what I like to call, “Women of Stature in the sporting world”. This is where I had my starstruck moment with Akhona. We were extremely honoured as a sponsor the gsport Awards, for me to be alongside this incredible woman on stage, to award her the Imperial African Woman in Sport Award in 2022.”

02 out of 11 Key Inspirational Take Outs from Akhona Makalima:

“Sometimes adjusting your dream to follow another dream is not failure, it can in fact lead to greater success”

With the professions of football and logistics both until recently having been predominantly male occupied roles, Makalima’s personal account of her journey to success as a woman in football made for an engaging and robust discussion with the women-only audience, who found her struggles and triumphs relatable and inspirational. 

Keynote speaker Akhona Makalima inspired women with her inspirational learnings at the Imperial, a DP World company, Global Women’s Forum (GWF) on on Friday 17 March. Photo: Supplied

Makalima shared how hailing from a town so small in the Eastern Cape, it almost cannot be spotted on a map, coupled with her mother’s concerns that her playing football would lead her “to becoming lesbian or a tomboy”, and that it held no viable career prospects, resulted in her being stopped from playing football in grade 11. Yet Makalima’s personal dreams surpassed all these notions. She lightheartedly shared how she resumed playing football in college while studying Human Resources, the moment she was far from her mother’s watchful eye, and how sometime later when Makalima’s mother was shown her daughter playing skilful football, she turned from being resistant to proud, becoming one of her biggest supporters.

03 out of 11 Key Inspirational Take Outs from Akhona Makalima:

“Don’t believe in limitations. Educate yourself and take in knowledge in the field you are passionate about”

Being a top athlete at school, excelling in almost every code she participated in, coupled with her love for football, fuelled her dream of playing for Banyana Banyana. While later working as an administrator for the Department of Sport, she then resumed playing club level football. When it became apparent that her dream of becoming a Banyana Banyana player would not materialise due to her age being against her at this point, during what she considered to be the last tournament she would play as a footballer, she came across an opportunity offered by the South Africa Football Association, inviting females to register to become football match officials.

And so started the realisation that her initial dream was changing shape, and that she had to work at double the rate in the process of her qualification journey to becoming a referee.

04 out of 11 Key Inspirational Take Outs from Akhona Makalima:

“Write down your goals and look at them daily. Write sub-goals for each goal you have. Highlight or tick them off once you achieved them. You have to see and celebrate your own successes too”

“To officiate in the Premier Soccer League in South Africa, you have to pass the same men’s Category 1 fitness test to qualify to officiate at the highest level of football in the country. I was determined to do this, and not just as the fourth official. So, I started training. 

“I trained hard. Having always excelled at all school sports especially in 100, 200 and 500m sprints, in which if I did not come first, at worst I finished second and even that felt like a disappointment to me. So, imagine my shock when I failed my first fitness physical test while trying to qualify as a referee in South Africa.”

05 out of 11 Key Inspirational Take Outs from Akhona Makalima:

“Plan a road map of what you want to do. Think about planning and believing in yourself. Don’t write something down and not action it. Be prepared to work harder than the rest”

“I was invited back, but then I also failed my second physical. At this point I nearly gave up, thinking this is not for me. It is far too difficult, and I am a woman trying to compete at men’s level.”

“Thankfully, one of the senior referees from the Eastern Cape, told me this: “You need to remember why you started!”. Those words sent me back to my drawing board. I realised I needed to train twice as a hard. It was at this point that I decided to enlist the help of resources in my community. I went to former South African cricketer Makhaya Ntini who is also from the Eastern Cape, and told him I would like to train with him as I had a goal of passing this fitness test to become a referee, which no woman in South Africa had ever run and passed. He had conditions for me. I had to be there not only on time, but before him every morning. I fulfilled this.

06 out of 11 Key Inspirational Take Outs from Akhona Makalima:

“Ask for what you want. Make a list. Make requests.”

“While the men trained only in the afternoons, there I was, training on my own with Makhaya for a few hours in the morning, and then later joining the men for the afternoon training session.”

If anything, it was the painful thought of remaining a Sports Assistant administrator managing sports programmes from behind a desk, while her true love was being directly, physically involved in football, that drove her to push on.

07 out of 11 Key Inspirational Take Outs from Akhona Makalima:

“Take each opportunity with both hands. Be in control of your opportunity, and ENJOY yourself. Put your name on the table for selection. You may not have control over the selection process. But you have control over the preparation you can do to be eligible for selection”

“It needed me to be committed, confident and courageous because this was an extremely difficult test to run as a woman. It was also about being stretched and believing in myself,” she shared.

It was Makalima’s sheer determination, the clarity of her vision and goals and creating her own support structure, that lead to her progress from refereeing at women’s football tournaments, to making history by becoming accredited as the first female match official in the Premier Soccer League in South Africa. This achievement, was followed by studying to later qualify as a COSAFA, then CAF and finally as a FIFA accredited referee in 2014. Makalima has since officiated in the men’s PSL, at COSAFA senior men’s games and the CAF Women’s Champions League.  

08 out of 11 Key Inspirational Take Outs from Akhona Makalima:

“‘Cut the Coat according to your own size’ – do not be or do something that you are not.”

“I put myself in the same pool as my male counterparts, studied the same books, passed the same fitness test, to qualify for selection for officiating matches. When they consider who will be officiating, they must know I am qualified and capable of selection. Yes, I have to work twice as hard, I have to train three times harder because I am a woman. But I am putting my name on the table. And when they look around, they must see that I am there.”

“Every woman that is watching this game, they must be able to see themselves in me. Even if you are sitting behind a desk at Checkers, you must know if there is a woman as strong as this person penetrating a men’s world in this way, I can also be that woman!”

09 out of 11 Key Inspirational Take Outs from Akhona Makalima:

“When I say CONFIDENCE, COMMITMENT, COURAGE and IDENTITY, I want you to write this down: Ask yourself, ‘What do you want to be Identified as?’”

“Every time I go onto the field, I carry the women on my shoulders, who are watching and saying to themselves, “I want to be courageous like that girl”.

The inspirational Makalima has just reached her latest goal which she had tabled on her vision board in 2022, by being elected as one of 12 elite African match officials to officiate at the upcoming 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup referee in Australia and New Zealand later this year.

10 out of 11 Key Inspirational Take Outs from Akhona Makalima:

“10 Know WHO you are. Not your title in your profession. Remember who you are as a woman. Before I am a referee, I am Akhona. I am a Woman. A Sister. For me, coming from a family of 10 girls, I grew up surrounded by sisters. So, I know how to be a sister. It’s the only thing I know best. I want to be a sister to other sisters who don’t look like me, who don’t pray like me, but I’m a sister to that girl.”

In closing she spoke of how she had lost her mother in December 2020 due to COVID while she was away at a tournament. “I cried my way home.” In 2021 when she returned to a similar tournament in January 2021, with her hair cut as part of her traditional mourning process, she was shamed by people for cutting her hair, without knowing the reason behind it. “I cut my hair to honour my mother. To make her proud. But this is the world we live in. We have to be prepared for this,” she warns and encourages.

11 out of 11 Key Inspirational Take Outs from Akhona Makalima:

“What are your goals? What do you want to be remembered for? You can’t be positioned in this world if you don’t know who you are. Do not allow them to identify you. You identify yourself. What kind of Leader are you?”

 

An overwhelming response of positive comments were shared by the women who attended the session. Here are a few:

  • Lauren Rota: Akhona, you have such laser-sharp focus on your goals, what an inspiration – and something we can all learn from!
  • Nthabiseng Ledwaba: Akhona you are such an inspiration
  • Keaoleboga Marokana: Preparing yourself for the next version of self, those are powerful words
  • Natasha Dunn: Be the best of yourself. Plan – organise and execute your action. Trust in yourself.
  • Londiwe Maclare: I especially love where Akhona says remember why you started … and “Cut the coat according to your own size” … Wow wow wow!
  • Inka Wassmann: Sad that women tend to make themselves small – glad you stayed true to yourself…. a GIANT among men!!!
  • Trinisha Mootheram: Thank you Akhona, you empowered yourself with your voice and determination to achieve your goals. Thank you for inspiring others.
  • Asanda Sonandi: Akhona I am so proud of you!! thank you for lifting up our small town Nqamakwe
  • Photo caption: Keynote speaker Akhona Makalima inspired women with her inspirational learnings at the Imperial, a DP World company, Global Women’s Forum (GWF) on on Friday 17 March. In this file photo, FIFA Accredited Referee Akhona Makalima is congratulated on winning the by Esha Mansingh, Imperial, a DP World company, Executive Vice President: Corporate Affairs and Investor Relations, at the 2022 Momentum gsport Awards, at the Wanders Club in Illovo, Johannesburg, on 14 September, 2022. Photo: Meghan McCabe (c) gsport 

 

Photo caption: Keynote speaker Akhona Makalima inspired women with her inspirational learnings at the Imperial, a DP World company, Global Women’s Forum (GWF) on on Friday 17 March. In this file photo, FIFA Accredited Referee Akhona Makalima is congratulated on winning the by Esha Mansingh, Imperial, a DP World company, Executive Vice President: Corporate Affairs and Investor Relations, at the 2022 Momentum gsport Awards, at the Wanders Club in Illovo, Johannesburg, on 14 September, 2022. Photo: Meghan McCabe (c) gsport

Photo 2 caption: Keynote speaker Akhona Makalima inspired women with her inspirational learnings at the Imperial, a DP World Company, Global Women’s Forum (GWF) on on Friday 17 March. Photo: Supplied

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