An interview with Environmentalist and Mrs Polokwane Finalist, Pearl Sibiya

Tenacity Magazine’s Karabo Maila speaks to Pearl Sibiya to celebrate her achievement and successes. Pearl is a published author of Kickstart Your Future, an EU mentor for Soul City Rise Girls, a UN Delegate, Social Media Facilitator and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Ambassador. She is the host for STEM summit with rural learners and a co-founder of NPO called Somebody Cares (Business Mentorship and Climate Action Summits). Pearl is also a finalist for Mrs Polokwane 2020.

Please kindly tell us who is Pearl Sibiya?

Pearl Sibiya was born and bred in a village called Maandagshoek ka Swale. I was raised by a single unemployed mother together with my 3 siblings. I was fortunate enough to be taken by my grandmother (mom’s aunt) to go stay with her in Phalaborwa from 1994 to 1998. When I came back to my village I was an A student in Grade 6 and 7. In 2000 when I was doing grade 7, I was chosen for an Anglo Platinum scholarship for my high school at Sir Harry Oppenheimer Agricultural High School.

Tell us about your educational journey?

I did my high school at Sir Oppenheimer Agricultural High School, which was a boarding school. Knowing my family background I had to work hard and did people’s hair for extra cash at the hostel. From Grade 10, I learnt that I am good in chemistry. I pursued my undergrad in Analytical Chemistry at Tshwane University of Technology.  I fell pregnant while doing my first year and gave birth in the first quarter of my second year. I managed to finish my degree with record time and it wasn’t easy. My class mates and family’s support helped me to cope with being a mom and studying. I also have an honours from UNISA.

How was your transitions from school to work?

I started working as an intern at the Department of Water Affairs , doing an experiential training in the laboratory in order for me to graduate. After graduating, I joined the learning academy of the Department of water affairs for three years and I got a permanent position at the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2012. In 2015 April, I got a promotion at GDARD and July same year I was promoted and moved to Limpopo Economic Development, Environment and Tourism(LEDET).

Why did you choose to be an environmentalist?

I found it easy to work with the environment unlike chemistry which I got tired of using my imagination and I realised that I don’t enjoy being in the laboratory. Back in my varsity days I had a mentor by the name of Dr Odusanya who guided me to study environmental management law course, and that is how I changed my career from chemistry to environmental management.

How does one become an environmentalist in South Africa?

One can study a natural science course or environmental law at the university of their choice.

What do you do as an environmentalist on a day to day basis?

I do environmental monitoring inspections to developments that requires environmental authorizations. This relates to construction of roads, dams, big buildings and many other projects. I attend to complaints regarding environmental crimes, issuing environmental compliance notices or open criminal dockets and compliance promotions to raise environmental awareness.

Some environmentalist take on the business route and establish their own business, why did you choose to work for the government?

I enjoy being a servant. There are more lessons in the public service as much as in the private. Always, learning the forever changing laws, policies and procedures

How long have you been in this industry and what are the challenges faced by Women specifically?

I have been in the industry for 11 years. Black women can be lost if they don’t have good mentors in the industry. It can be challenging working with male counterparts, because women’s voices are never taken serious.

You are Mrs Polokwane Finalist 2020, tell us more on that aspect?

Being Mrs Polokwane Finalist is all about women empowerment for married women who want to make a difference in our community. It is an opportunity that is significant in every way and is truly a life-changing experience. We are encouraged to be able to serve the community as we organise events for charity work in order raise funds.

You are a published author of Kickstart Your Future, what motivated you to write the book?

I used to attend lots of motivational seminars and reading plenty of motivational books, that is what drove me to write my book. I describe my book as a self-development plan that will help all ages to grow whether in school or business.

Who inspires you?

I am inspired by Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng because of her capabilities and having quick-witted intelligence.

Social Media Platforms:

Facebook: Pearl Sibiya

Twitter: @Kgopotso1

Instagram: @Pearl_Sekwati

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