Guest Speakers from left to right: Liezl van Rooyen (Clinical Psychologist), Marciel Hopkins (Model and Motivational Speaker), Chantel Walker (Registered Dietitian), Jean-Mari Hellig (Image Consultant) and Maya du Plessis (Registered Dietitian)

Working with women (both young and old) made us realize that we underestimate and undermine ourselves on a regular basis. Social and print media often depicts an unrealistic body size, unrealistic beauty and health trends and unrealistic life ‘goals’. We identified the large need to feel comfortable in our bodies and the idea for the Women Empowerment Morning was born. Our main goal was to educate and empower females in the Stellenbosch and surrounding areas. We were overwhelmed by the interest of the guest speakers and sponsors we approached and in a short time everything was arranged and ready for action. Our guest speakers and PRESENTER??? were all females with a passion for women’s health and empowerment.

Liezl van Rooyen, Clinical Psychologist was the first guest speaker. Her main theme was about women and their worth. She had the following to share: “As women, we are emotionally sensitive and attuned to cues from the world we live in.  Our physical appearance and the way we present ourselves to the world, is an important part of being confident.  Whether we value neatness, a professional look, freshly applied lipstick, or merely being able to brush one’s teeth as a sleep-deprived new mom – we SHOULD value ourselves enough to present ourselves to the world proudly and with self-respect.  Your body carries your spirit and soul – the real “you”, and not only may you enjoy taking care of it by beautifying it, you are likely to enhance your emotional well-being by doing so.” 

She emphasized how women are influenced by social media and print media: “However, in a commercialized world, our self-worth is all too easily related to outward appearance.  The essence of who we are as human beings, what makes you YOU, transcends this.  You are MORE than the way you look, and your real value lies in your ability to acknowledge and embrace this.  If you are able to value and love yourself regardless of the way you look, you can truly allow others to love you unconditionally.  Please dare to believe that you are worth more than you feel on the days you notice saggy skin, a new wrinkle, or jeans that feel a bit tighter around your waist.”

Liezl’s take home message was that we all have a contribution to make in this world.  We have the right to “take up space.”  And our beauty lies not in our makeup or new shoes, although they make life fun.  Our beauty lies in ‘BEING YOU’.

Chantel Walker, Registered Dietitian, started her presentation by comparing various successful women like Michelle Obama (former first lade), Serena Williams (professional tennis player), Beyonce (artist / singer), Rebel Wilson (actress) and Ashley Graham (professional model). The one thing that all of these women have in common (except for their slightly bigger bodies)? They are successful in their respective fields. They overcame the obstacles on their journey to success – the critique of body size, pressure to fit into a mold and at the end of the day they are well known women, role models for many females.

Why do we still place so much focus on the number on the scale? We often use it to validate us; if you are a certain shape or size you might be accepted, you might fit in. No-one knows what you weigh, but they will know how you made them feel, how you treated them (or complete strangers) and what you achieved in your life. Health is important, but instead of being unhealthy (limiting food groups and calories and excessive exercise) to maintain a certain weight, we should focus on being healthy, nourishing our bodies properly and reaching our full potential, be it in academics, sport or everyday life.

She ended her talk off by using an analogy: she compared two dog breeds – a Rottweiler and Chihuahua. Both dogs with unique personalities and traits and different sizes. The Rottweiler will never have the body shape and size of the Chihuahua and visa versa, we would also never expect them to change in anyway. Why do we forget that women are all built in different shapes and sizes and why do we force ourselves to fit into a ‘commercial’ mold when this is physically impossible and can cause more harm than good?

‘Beauty is being the best possible version of yourself’ Audrey Hepburn

Marciel Hopkins is an international curve (plus-size) model and motivational speaker. She shared her journey as a Miss South Africa finalist and how she was placed in a specific box during this journey – she had to be able to wear a specific size, have a certain body shape and this made her exercise excessively and eat small amounts of food, some days she barely ate anything. During this journey of almost two years she was miserable and realized that this is not the life she had envisioned for herself. She started the #healthnotsize and #bodypositive movements and continuous to spread the word in her modeling career, on social media and in her life from day to day.

Marciel shared her coping strategies, as she admits that some days are more difficult than others, especially in the modeling career.

Jean-Mari Hellig, Image Consultant, ended off the day by showing us how easy it can be to ‘dress-to-impress’. A big focus of her presentation was how the right colours, patterns and cuts can emphasize our natural beauty and increase our confidence. She also focused on how first impressions matter, whether you go for an interview, meet someone for the first time or have an important meeting or presentation. Jean-Mari ended off her talk by sharing her list of ‘must-have items’.

The audience was very involved with all the talks, asking questions, participating in debates and sharing their own stories.

We were fortunate enough to have various sponsors for goodie bags and prizes. Each woman received a goodie bag on arrival. The bags were filled with various items:

  1. Wazoogles protein shakes
  2. Eat Naked peanut butter and honey
  3. Le Michelle Gift Vouchers (hair treatments, massages or discount vouchers)
  4. Minuteman Press – notebook with quotes
  5. The Duchess – virgin gin and tonics
  6. Raynette du Toit – therapeutic sports massage and reflexology vouchers
  7. Happy Culture Kombucha
  8. ReVite – vitamins
  9. Birdcage – macaroons

During the break everyone could enjoy a variety of delicious snacks. Fig tarts, salmon cups, creamy apple meringues, mango mousse, pepper and onion wheels, pomegranate chocolate bark and coffee were served by the wonderful team of Careserv. The break also allowed the guests to mingle with each other and the speakers, ask questions, share stories, pose for photos and try out the products in the goodie bags.

We ended the morning off by having a lucky draw. A few lucky women went home with wonderful prizes. Prizes were sponsored by:

  1. TAN leather goods – wallet, pencil case and make up bag
  2. Torrin Theron Biokineticist – assessment
  3. Jean-Mari Hellig Image Consultant – assessment and counseling session
  4. Deli-ish – beautifully decorated cake
  5. Wazoogles – vegan protein hamper
  6. Imagine Dietitians – assessment
  7. Move Pretty – voucher
  8. Down to Earth – fresh produce and organic products

We would like to thank all our guest speakers, sponsors and most important the guests, who made this morning a possibility.

‘You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant and brave’