If there is one thing I took home with me after interviewing Cynthia – renowned businessman, Sydney Martin’s sister – it was the simple concept that sunflowers must be squished and pounded and ground to produce pure oil. Motherhood, she said, women and the best human beings in general, are like sunflower oil. They have had to go through the refinery process of pain and anguish to become their better versions and serve the purpose God placed them on this earth to partake.
As if her life has always been perfect, this phenomenal woman is a “now” person; doesn’t live in past and has a heart of gold.
We conducted this interview while she was in Malawi where she has a project that helps the needy. It took a while to put it all together, but here we are; From Malawi, with Love!
I was inspired. I hope you are too.
Is a daughter, mother, sister, wife, friend and above all, a child of God. I am an entrepreneur who believes in empowering people to meet their dreams. I have a soft spot for women and the girl-child in particular. I was born and bred in Luderitz.
I am a qualified social worker. Some of my business interests include Renlyn Namibia (Pty) Ltd, which is a subsidiary of the Renlyn Group in South Africa trading in bulk chemical supplies, water treatment chemicals and services for NamWater.
I also own Hebhiziba Holdings (Pty) Ltd trading as Greiters Conference Centre, and Hebhiziba Rehabilitation Centre for Alcohol and Drug Abuse. I am a shareholder in the African Energy Cooperation project; a N$920b project within the Renewal Energy Sectorial, through the developing of a solar farm across the African continent.
What defines her as a woman includes…
My daily goal is to live a life full of humility; one that would require me to embrace a mindset that is far different from culture. That mindset is; ‘the way up is down’, for I look up to God as my ultimate source of power, success and vision.
I’m the kind of person who constantly seeks to improve and touch the lives of those I cross paths with, in my personal and business lives. I thrive in my ability to nurture and grow something out of nothing, as would a mother.
Which of your life’s passions makes you want to wake up every morning fired up to face the world head-on?
I am passionate about everything I do in life! My children and my loved ones inspire me to get up every day and be the best Cynthia I can be – better than yesterday’s. I believe procrastination is an enemy of the soul. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not promised. Ask yourself the same question I ask myself every day; what can I do with the now? Out of that, my heart burns with the desire to make the most out of life and leave a positive mark on this world.
I am inspired by motherhood, the unpredictability of the business world (and successfully overcoming this) and of course, building Women of Destiny.
Do you think “acting like a man” is a waste of a woman?
Why should you act like a man to prove yourself? Let your work speak for itself! Work hard, focus and deliver, then people will respect you for what you do and not whether you act like a man or woman. Personally, I am a shrewd businesswoman who is serious about her work. I command respect because I know my work well; I fight for my dreams to come true. And you know what? I do it while looking good and enjoying the gift of my femininity. It’s how God made me, after all.
If you were a single mom, what would your life look like?
I believe in doing everything to the best of one’s God-given ability and if I were a single mother, I would be as driven and as passionate as I am today, because that is who I am. It would be a different kind of life with its own set of challenges, yes, but I believe in the power of resilience.
Thousands of great leaders and talented people have come out of single parent homes. Life in itself is full of challenges. Challenges are like coins: on each flip side is a different picture depending on who wants to embrace it.
Do you think Government should give special privileges to mothers?
Absolutely! There are countries in the world where mothers can take maternity leave for up to a year to care for their new babies. This may be a stretch, to begin with, in Namibia, but there are other privileges, such as flexitime. Flexitime allows mothers to work half-day and then work from home while they nurse their babies. Companies should also start to consider having nurseries at the workplace where toddlers can be cared for during the day while mommies work.
Motherhood is not something to be ashamed of; the fact that you are a mother does not make you incapable of doing your job – it is in fact a job in itself, the toughest one for that matter. If Government, and the private sector alike, made it easier for women to balance both motherhood and work, through Employee Assistance Programs in the workplace, productivity levels would increase tremendously.
Tell us about Women of Destiny (WOD) and the Cinderella Ball
I established the WOD empowerment group in 2008 as a non-profit trust. The aim was to assist women discover their purpose in life, despite the circumstances they face. The Cinderella Ball was launched in 2012 in Windhoek where it donated more than 600 gowns and 550 shoes nationwide, to girls who could not afford to dress up for the most important day in their school lives – prom. The Namibian public responded to an appeal by WOD to donate evening gowns, shoes and accessories to these girls. The WOD network is comprised of 1,000 women across the country and is committed to instilling a sense of identity in young women. We do this through guiding and mentoring them so they can lead meaningful lives and contribute to society.
What life lessons have you learnt as a mother that have shaped who you are as a woman, an individual and a leader?
I have learnt that motherhood is a selfless job. Besides the love of God, it is the highest level of unconditional love.
I have learnt to put myself aside and sacrifice my needs for the good of the people around me. Still, I must be firm but fair, a friend, yet still have the final say. In my position, I must do what is good for everyone, me included. ‘Everyone’ includes employees and my businesses at large.
The workplace is like a little family of its own and needs nurturing too. Lessons from motherhood are the same a leader would draw from daily life: Guide but let people be themselves. Correct them when they stray, because a successful organization is built by people who feel secure and happy that their views are considered and their needs are taken care of, as is in a family unit.
Being a mother, how would you deal with insubordination in the work place?
As I said earlier, I have to be firm but fair. You have to be respectful when you are dealing with adults, and in the workplace, respect is a two-way street. From the beginning, I let people know how I like things to be done; to understand my vision.
This is something that must be understood from the beginning. When someone becomes insubordinate, my first line of action is to sit them down, as I would my children, and find out what is wrong – maybe there is a bigger problem that I am unaware of. We will work through this together, but at the end of the day, work must be done and it should be done respectfully. Failure to do so means the employee must be referred to the company’s code of conduct.
Have you been through any life-shattering experiences that have shaped who you are today?
I was involved in a serious car accident that took the lives of four other passengers with whom I was traveling. For two whole years, I lost mobility – my bones were literally crushed. I was stuck in a wheelchair, unable to take care of myself. My recovery was miraculous!
The healing process was a bag of mixed emotions, but what stood was that I was happy to be alive. During that period, God revealed to me His vision for my life – to help and empower other people.
But my sister, it was also the darkest period of my life. Those I thought truly loved me shunned me out. I learnt a lot about human relationships and God’s love. I am stronger now than I have ever been. I can help people now, because I can relate with every single emotion under the sun. Believe me!
What do you think the world would be like if all the world leaders were mothers?
I believe if ever there comes a time when the women of the world unite purely for the benefit of humanity; it would be a force the world has never known. Inasmuch as appointing more women leaders would enable new strategic plans to tackle all psychosocial problems affecting the World, it would be interesting to witness such an environment.
I believe in gender balance, though – I am not an extremist who wishes to eliminate men from the face of the earth. No. As such, if all the world leaders were women, of course there would be a lot more female traits in the world, you know – empathy, intuition, multitasking and emotional intelligence.
What kind of mother are you; the one who spanks her kids for disciplinary purposes or the one who takes away privileges until she is satisfied the child has learnt their lesson?
The word of God in Proverbs states; “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Discipline is an integral part of raising children and yes, I believe in spanking because my mom spanked me whenever she had to, but I also believe discipline needs to be rooted in love. Do not hit your child out anger. Make them understand why they’re being spanked at that particular moment.
What message would you pass to mothers – especially those in abusive relationships and the working moms – and the men in their lives this Mothers’ Month?
Mother’s Day is every day. Every important event, invention and innovation can, in some ways, be attributed to a mother; mothers gave birth to every person in existence. So reward them with love every single day.
To the men; one of the biggest displays of your masculinity is your ability to protect and look out for the best interests of the women around you. Women; the most powerful thing you can do for yourself is to ask God to lead you to your purpose and destiny.
You may feel lost and hopeless, tired and overwhelmed by life at present, but God shows up and transforms our lives in ways we can never fully comprehend when we least expect it. So soldier on, my sister!