Born and bred in the beautiful village of Ga-Sekhukhune in Limpopo, Shirley Mnisi now calls
White River home.

Educated in Polokwane in her formative years, Shirley went on to study in Cape Town, Potchefstroom and Stellenbosch, before moving to White River in 2005. An HR professional by trade, moving up through the ranks from being an HR administrator back in 2002 to serving on various HR management executive roles for the past 15 years has been a humbling experience.

Shirley Mnisi

“I am also a leadership and management coach,” she says, “and an even more exciting career development has been my recent appointment to the council chair role for Penryn College (pro bono), which fits in perfectly with my passion for education and community development. Gr owing up, the only careers we ever knew of were those of a lawyer, engineer, medical doctor, accountant, teacher, nurse and police officer. Not much was known about other career opportunities such as HR management,” she explains.

“Studying at UCT truly opened my eyes to a whole new world of career development and a variety of choices from which to pick. I will remain forever grateful for that university and the focus they had on quickly orientating those of us who were from rural South Africa, into the field of career development and support.”

The fact that Shirley loves and is inspired by the work she does, comes through in her infectious enthusiasm whenever she speaks about her calling. “I love my career and all it has exposed me to,” she says, “It gives me an opportunity to properly hang out with everyone in an organisation, as well as the ability to appreciate the diversity of the work at hand. I also get super excited about any opportunity granted to serve and contribute to matters of community development. My fad for the last 15 years has been contributing towards growing autism awareness in South Africa, purely because there is less known about the subject in terms of educational interventions and awareness in our communities.”

Nkateko at his cooking lessons

Shirley and her husband, Dr Nkanyezi Ronny Mnisi, have two boys, Nkateko (18 and on the autism spectrum) and Mikhenso (12). “My amazing hubby and I have been on honeymoon for the past 18 years and are still going strong,” she smiles. As an auttie mum, Shirley says her purpose has always been to share with and educate society on how to live with people on the spectrum. “My dream is to one day build a centre for autism in Mpumalanga, catering for all ages, as I believe people living with autism have an equal opportunity to lead successful independent lives into their adulthood. It is how we respond as a society that will be a game changer,” she says.

Mikhenso

As we all know, being a mum isn’t always easy, and managing an autistic child can sometimes up the stakes, but Shirley takes it in her stride. “Each day is a new and different day,” she says. “There is no manual. I deal with the unknowns and celebrate my children like there is no tomorrow. I am the undercover psychologist, motivational speaker, lawyer, doctor and coach to my kids. In everything, God is the ultimate true driver and I just listen and obey. I’m not sure I effectively manage the perfect balance between being a mum and a working woman, but I plan my weeks to the tee. I am also open to a lot of disruptions and things possibly going wrong.” Shirley says that to keep sane, she always remembers that anything is possible if you are committed. “I try to believe in the godsent people around me, bearing in mind that it is mostly never about me, but the collective. Over the years, I have also grown to know and understand my purpose a lot better … but it is a work in progress, we continuously evolve.”

Spending quality time with her children is a must for Shirley, and as a soccer mum, she is a big fan. “You bet I love soccer!” she laughs. “I have to be, I’m a Barca and Kaiser Chiefs supporter. We also love going for long walks on Saturday afternoons, especially as my eldest loves the outdoors. We’ve also all been bitten by the travel bug, so that is something we love to do together, especially Graskop, Sabie and Pilgrim’s. I have mostly done all of SA, some Europe and SADC, and a few Asian destinations. With proper savings, I would love to do more of Africa and explore outside the SADC region.”

Family is everything to Shirley

Appreciative of the fact that life was never meant to be a bed of roses, Shirley says the secret to success is knowing that if you want to see change, you must start small and be that change – no one will do it for you. “We need to keep adjusting our sails and moving forward with God as the engine,” she says. “I am a very spiritual. I would not be able to be who I am were it not for my understanding of where I come from, who I am, and what purpose I am meant to fulfil in this lifetime.”

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