Lerato Linah Phakoe is a 20-year-old “authorprenuer” and education activist who believes that one should never look down on others but rather help them, if possible.
She was raised by her unemployed mother in Hammanskraal and did not have a close relationship with her father, which resulted in her being depressed as a child.
To heal herself, she wrote about her childhood traumas and self-published her books. The Kindness Paid With Pain, which inspires readers to look at life in a positive way, was published when Lerato was 17, while she was in grade 11.
Her second book, For the Sake of Living, came out in the following year, when she was doing her matric. It aims to motivate readers by knowing what their purpose is.
She began the Lerato Phakoe Foundation after being touched by a story she had written, which discussed the difficulties learners face at school. In her first drive she donated school uniforms and sanitary towels to her former high school, to help learners feel equal in the school premises regardless of their home situations.
She has also donated more than 60 children’s books and toiletries to the youth. She runs her own marketing company, which promotes creatives through their VEE BEE online magazine.
Lerato’s dedication won her the Vita Basadi Award from the Gauteng provincial legislature and she was runner-up in the MIA Creative Award in the Book of the Year category. She is pursuing her studies in education at North-West University.
What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?
I must never stop seeking knowledge, I am never too young or too old to learn something new. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”— Dr Seuss.
Our theme this year is Accelerating Equality & Empowerment in Women. How do you empower yourself and women around you?
I empower myself by going for every dream and goal that I set for myself. I have always dreamed of being a published author from a young age, and through discipline and drive I was able to publish three books, start my own foundation which assists learners with school uniforms, stationary and helps young girls with toiletries and food parcels. We introduced a community of readers who donate children’s books and I also funded my own company, which promotes creatives through our magazine (Vee Bee Online Magazine). I have a team of young ladies who are passionate about writing; they are employed as freelance writers and some of them are helping out with running the Lerato Phakoe Foundation. We have welcomed an accolade from the Gauteng Legislature, the Vita Basadi Award (Outstanding Creative category) in recognition of our commitment to serving the people of Gauteng.
If you could change or achieve one thing for South Africa today, what would it be?
I would love to change the education system. I believe that any system that is meant to contribute to young people’s future should be broad enough to accommodate their different skills and talents without limiting their potential. During my teaching practicals I was able to engage with many learners who are passionate about writing, and aspiring young entrepreneurs. Many of them were astounded to learn that I am already a self-published author, and employed as a freelance writer and an editor at a publishing company, without having any degree. This becomes possible when teachers share relevant information outside the curriculum that they have to follow. Having young people who are equipped with enough information on how they can better their skills may contribute to the economy’s growth and decrease the unemployment rate in our country.