Catherine Constantinides’s list of achievements and accolades is long enough to fill pages, let alone a few paragraphs, but this is not her biggest achievement… her biggest achievement is her passion for life & her understated natural ability to inspire positive change.
Who starts their first business at the age of 16 to highlight social issues? She did.
Who has been named Top South African Young Woman Entrepreneur for Women Empowerment, as well as South African Youth Entrepreneur at the South African Premier Business Awards? She has.
Who has ambitions to be a published author, and started a music, entertainment and arts magazine by the time she was 21? That would be her, again.
And who has set her sights on, one day, entering politics with the ambition of attaining the highest seat of power in government? You guessed it. Constantinides.
It is difficult to imagine that all this energy and drive exists in a single person, who also happens to be executive director of Miss Earth South Africa leadership programme, a movement to empower women in the climate, sustainability, food security and conservation sector. Oh, and she’s also the LEAD SA executive responsible for mobilising active citizens.
In case this is not enough evidence of Constantinides’s capacity as a young role model, she was the youngest of 20 emerging Africans named as an Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellow in 2013, which saw her engaging with other young African leaders in a programme that included an intense module hosted at Oxford University.
She sees herself as an out-and-out social entrepreneur with a vision to change the world. She lives and promotes these values through her work, including another initiative she founded – the international climate youth network GENERATION EARTH.
“I also hope to continue building and challenging myself as a social entrepreneur, using innovation as a key foundation to building on the endless opportunity that surrounds us as citizens of this country.”
In her latest adventure, Catherine has been unveiled in the fifth portrait of the latest season of 21 Icons. Entitled ‘Force of Nature’, the image celebrates environmentalist and entrepreneur Catherine Constantinides.
21 Icons is a film documentary and photographic project that aims to recognise, publicise and celebrate South African heroes and ‘icons’. The first two seasons were focused on our former and current political, cultural and sporting heroes who were pivotal in the lead up to and establishment of South Africa’s new democracy – including Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Sophia Williams de Bruyn and Nadine Gordimer.
This, the third season, focuses on South Africa’s inspiring youth icons, and it takes a significant departure in style, incorporating colour for the first time under the visual leadership of new lead photographer Gary van Wyk.
Catherine’s image was shot at Llandudno Beach in Cape Town, and portrays her as a kind of earth goddess or natural spirit, draped in floral fabric and wearing a crown of indigenous flowers. The theme takes its lead from Catherine’s title, as a former Miss Earth SA (as well as the programme’s national director), but even more so from her international work in environmental advocacy and conservation education. ‘Catherine is photographed surrounded by the very ecosystem she fights to protect,’ Van Wyk said of the image.
“We need to teach people to dream and to hope,’ Catherine said in the 21 Icons announcement, ‘because it’s only when members of society believe in something greater than the circumstances they found themselves in, they become active citizens that achieve change.”
Catherine has racked up a slew of awards and honours. She was a recipient of an Eco-Warrior award in 2014, a Greening the Future award in 2013, named SA youth entrepreneur at the 2013 South African Premier Business Awards and the 2013 top young female entrepreneur by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). She was also included in the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans for 2014. She is an Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellow (2013).
A huge advocate for local produce, Constantinides’ aim is to create awareness around sustainability, planting the seed in every person she meets, in order to create agents of change. “There are people, ordinary South Africans doing extraordinary things every day,” she says.
“They are the oil behind the wheels that turns our society and country from day to day. They are the unsung heroes of society.”