Brand South Africa's #PlayYourPart: Catherine Costantinides- an advocate for human rights

Brand South Africa's #PlayYourPart: Catherine Costantinides- an advocate for human rights

“An ordinary citizen who lived a life to leave an extraordinary difference,” that is how Catherine Costantinides would like to be remembered.

Catherine Costantinides
Catherine Costantinides / Supplied

Catherine Costantinides – one of the 100 Young Mandela’s of the Future - is a South African woman whose life is impacting people from all walks of life.

She is an international climate activist, founder of the Miss Earth South Africa, trailblazer, an agent of change and a human rights defender.

READ ALSO: Brand South Africa's #PlayYourPart: Goliath and Goliath use comedy to build a better SA

She says working with former President Nelson Mandela is what impacted her and changed her life. 

“I am truly blessed to have worked with and engaged with so many leaders from around the world. It is too difficult to pick just one person or moment, however, I certainly can say that my engagement and time spent in the presence of Tata Madiba was a time in my life that certainly influenced me, has shaped my views, ideas and thoughts,” she says.

This extra-ordinary South African has sacrificed her life for the betterment of others. Having travelled the world extensively as a human rights defender, she says she is very proud to be South African.

She says “there is more that connects us than divides us. We do have the most beautiful country in the world and there is nothing that makes me more proud to be a South Africa but the fact that I am a child of this soil. This is my country, my home, this is my South Africa.”

The former Miss Earth says her love for the environment begin at a very young age.

“ As a young child, the environment is where my sister and I grew up. We spent so much time in our garden with my dad, he bestowed on us the responsibility to safeguard and protect the environment we live in. He told us stories about every flower and glow worm that lived in our back garden and we grew fruits and vegetables, herbs and indigenous plants. We grew up in our beautiful little garden is was watered with love and connection and nature was part of me, not just a place I returned to,”.

She says the Miss Earth South Africa crown gave her an opportunity to inspire women all over the world.

“I didn’t know then that this would be the start of a journey that I would walk, living a life that I could empower and inspire women not only in my country but around the world. It was certainly a moment in my journey and life,” she says.

Apart from the work, she does as an environmentalist, Catherine also calls herself an agent of change.

“Being a young woman has always been my greatest challenge. I still often look around the table/ boardroom or room and realise I am the youngest person there by almost 25 years additionally I am sometimes still the only women in the room. The spaces I work in remain male-dominated, however over the past fifteen years I have certainly seen a change and the dynamics are starting to shift, slowly but changing none the less.”

“A dear friend of mine, Ahmed Kathrada always said; “The hardest thing to change is a closed mind.” When people carry a specific belief, behaviour or misinformed understanding, and they are not willing to engage or even listen. Global Leaders who have economic ties to coal and other resources have been determined to change or shift the narrative by operating from a denial platform, this makes the work that needs to be done much harder and it unravels the important development that has been made.”

Talking about her involvement in Brand SA’s ‘Play Your Part’, Catherine says she can't remember a time when she wasn't playing her part and urges all South Africans to play their part. 

“I believe that fundamentally each and every citizen has a responsibility to play their part from where they are daily. We need to be actively engaged in building our nation. It is not about the grand plans, but rather it is about the small, deliberate and habitual manner in which we go about our daily lives.

Catherine says she still has more plans to make a difference in the world.

“ My journey has just begun. Watch this space!!! There is much work to be done,” she concludes.

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