Attending the school of hard knocks as a child prepared Jabulile Diko for painful and difficult experiences that nurtured in her a never-say-die attitude and primed her for success later in life.
Today Diko, 40, who is Associate Director of Executive Education at MANCOSA private higher education institution, is a self-starter, resourceful and a people’s person. She is glad life was not only a bed of roses for her.
She spent her early childhood in Pinetown, Durban and attended schools in the former Transkei and Ciskei homelands.
“I was part of a large family. I do not know my father. My mother was a domestic worker. I moved around a lot and was shunted from one family member to another while I was growing up.
“The tough upbringing taught me to be adaptable and self-reliant. I learnt to be resilient and to identify with persons from all walks of life, irrespective of their colour, calibre and age,” she said.
With only a matric and no experience, Diko worked in Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, “doing every and any job I could get”.
“I looked after children, waitressed at a restaurant, cleaned in a hospitality department kitchen of a college, I answered phones at reception, and subsequently worked my way up.
“I obtained a National Certificate: Occupationally Directed Education Training and Development Practices and a Diploma in Production Management from the Production Management Institute.
“I commenced work at MANCOSA as a business development consultant and worked my way up to my present role.
“MANCOSA gave me opportunities to learn, to develop and progress, to travel, to inspire, to nurture and the freedom to get involved in any project I chose.
“This has been a phenomenal and enriching journey. I have grown in many ways. I’m inspired and I am a better person for it,” said Diko.
She helped to get the Centre for Women in Leadership up and running and has put together programmes for various companies.
She feels strongly about empowering women and shares all the knowledge she has acquired from attending seminars and masterclasses.
“There are greater opportunities than previously for women to advance themselves. More women are being accorded their rightful role in society but there is still room for improvement.
“Women are equally intelligent as their male counterparts and thus are needed in the workforce in order to harness the true potential of our society.
“It is not easy for a working woman to juggle her career with that of wife and mother – but it is doable. Routines are helpful.”
Diko said having a career also made women economically independent. She said by not having to rely solely on a male partner, the possibility of mistreatment was decreased, especially in South Africa where gender-based violence is rife.
Her message for young and aspiring career women wanting to make a success of their lives is to never give up, even in the face of obstacles.
“If someone like me, with all kinds of odds stacked against her, could make it somewhere in life, you too must start believing in yourself.
“You are better, stronger and have much more opportunities available to you. Forward ever, backward never. Learn as much as you can,” said Diko.
The mother of one said she put her own studies on hold so that she could fund a relative who is orphaned. She subsequently completed a B. Comm degree and has set her sights on a Master’s degree.
Although she has managed to overcome hurdles and curved balls that came her way, her aim is to continue improving herself.
“I want to be better than the person I was yesterday and to continue chasing a better version of me tomorrow.
“I believe that no matter how bad things get, the next day can always bring about new energy and another opportunity to try again in a different way,” Diko said.