Strong women unite

23 Nov 21 | Chamber News

You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them – Maya Angelou.

The recent Strong Women conference held by SACCUSA and the South African Women in the USA and Canada (SAWITU) was an extraordinary showcase of how dynamic SA women are prospering in their respective fields notwithstanding the many challenges they face.

Keynote speaker, Lorna Greyling, is a previous Mrs South Africa finalist who shared a multi-layered story of her journey as a mother, businesswoman, pageant competitor and author. Lorna’s book Kidnapped is a harrowing true-life story of how her husband Nick was kidnapped by 55 rebels in Nigeria and held hostage for over a week.

Nick worked as an M-Net/SuperSport sound engineer when the event took place in March 2010.

Lorna jokingly referred to herself as a ‘newbie’ in the US who only moved to the county three months ago. “I’ve decided to never compare what I had in South Africa with what I have now, but I’m rather tackling it as an adventure,” she said.

Her path as a competitor in a pageant was enlightening and inspirational as Lorna had to face disappointment by ending last, but ‘leaving it as a winner’.

Vice-President of SACCUSA, Magda Odendaal, themed her message around being unstoppable. Odendaal has an illustrious career of training women across the world, which started in Singapore in 1979.

Since then she has impacted the lives of 18 000 women in countries including Russia, Asia, various islands and Africa. SAWITU’s Antoinet De Ridder said their mission was the empowerment of women and the promotion of women’s interests in America.

They have been active for the past four years and have more than 5000 members. The conference was their first in-person event. The chamber and SAWITU offer complimentary support structures with the one focused more on social and welfare support and the other business development.

Cath Coetzer, VP of SACCUSA and a VP of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, shared her journey from being a lecturer at a university for ten years before joining Coca-Cola 23 years ago. Coetzer moved to the US two years ago and illustrated how a ‘strength attitude’ could change a woman’s life.

Cath’s first husband died in her arms and she was left with twin sons. She had to dig deep and adapt her attitude to one of strength. Cath soon after met her second husband and the couple had a daughter and have been together for 20 years. Cath further explained how being a victim of serious crime made a strong woman of her.

President of SACCUSA, Neil Diamond, encouraged the women to participate in both organisations as the power of connection and networking with other South Africans are important for the prosperity of all. Diamond underlined some of SACCUSA’s core functions like supporting and growing South African business interests in the USA. The Chamber has built strong relationships with the embassy and assisted over 70 South Africans with, amongst others, ETC and passport applications.


The conference was attended by women from across the country and every speaker brought their own message of resilience and tenacity while always remaining gracious. Planning has already started on the 2021 event.

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