BORN and bred in North End, Lesley Ann Foster is the epitome of what every young woman aspires to be.
Raised by the first physical training (PT) teacher in East London, Foster said she inherited her work ethic from her mother, Merle Foster.
“She was a career woman and I got that from her.
“She also fought social injustices on many fronts in the community and attended to the needs of people. I also got that from her,” Foster said.
Foster, one of The GO & Express’s women achieving great things this Women’s Month, said she had been an activist from an early age and was very involved in the Good Shepherd Anglican Church.
She used to play the organ and started running fundraising events.
“I actually learnt fundraising from the church. A lot of the things I do, I started when I was still very young,” Foster said.
“I used to collect clothes and have jumble sales outside the church. Afterwards, I would organise teas for the senior citizens with the money raised. I also taught them craft work. We did lovely things. My passion has always been working with people, especially older people.”
Foster, a founder member and director of Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre, has won many accolades, most recently winning the award for best social entrepreneur at the BWA (Businesswomen’s Association) Regional Business Achievers Awards.
“It’s teamwork, really. I would never have got that award if it wasn’t for the staff of Masimanyane.”
Growing up in the apartheid era, she said she experienced a lot of challenges but her mother taught her how to read and that has contributed immensely to her broad view of the world.
“One of the challenges growing up in those apartheid days was poor education. A lot of injustices were suffered in the places we lived. I always remember the homes we lived in – they always leaked.
“There were times we had to move our beds because the water was coming in. My dad was not educated, he was a waiter and earned very little. Later on, he became an insurance agent and a well-known figure in the community,” she added.
Speaking on the issue of young women dating much older men, she said it boiled down to how society valued women.
“Woman are still oppressed everywhere, it doesn’t matter what cultural background one comes from.
“Apartheid also told us we weren’t beautiful enough. For a woman to be accepted in the community, she has to be good, sweet, shut up and accept. That already pushes us down. We are not able to stand on our own two feet and be independent. Most young women don’t have that sense of independence.”
It is this independence and strength we all need to celebrate this Women’s Month.