A Stellenbosch University master’s student in Environmental Management recently received two prestigious recognitions for her work in the space of one week. Akhona Xotyeni has been chosen as one of Inside Education’s 100 South African Shining Stars as well as one of Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans.

The events took place virtually on September 5 and 10 respectively, and were broadcast on SABC 1 and YouTube.

Dineo Bendile, who is the project manager of the 100 South African Shining Stars, and Cayleigh Bright, the content producer for Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans, spoke to MatieMedia and said that their events highlight the achievements of young South Africans who are between the ages of 18 and 35 years old.

“Highlighting the achievements and contributions of the youth is very valuable and powerful because they are the future,” Bright said. “It is important to acknowledge their work, so that the public can see it.”

The 2020 Inside Education’s 100 South African Shining Stars and Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans  had 900 and 8000 entries respectively.

“I don’t really do stuff for the recognition, but I appreciate being recognised,” Xotyeni said. “It makes me feel like the things I am doing are seen as valuable. I think when it comes to environmentalism, people think they need to make grand gestures. But they forget that when everyone does a lot of small gestures – not littering or not wasting water – that makes one grand gesture.”

According to Xotyeni’s older sister, Yola, her sister is a “force to be reckoned with”.

“Akhona has committed herself to ensure that the work that she does has sustained results and has a positive impact on marginalised people. I am truly proud of her,” she said.

Picture: Ahkona Xotyeni/Facebook

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