This month we speak to attorney, notary, and conveyancer, Gundo Nevhutanda. Gundo was born in Vondwe village in Limpopo and she qualified as an attorney after serving her articles in 2016. She simultaneously studied BCom (Law) and Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from 2010 to 2014 at the University of Pretoria and at the tender age of 25, Gundo was named by the Law Society of the Northern Provinces as the youngest black female conveyancer to be admitted. She obtained her LLM in 2018 and she is currently a Ph.D. candidate and an associate in the Financial Regulatory practice at Webber Wentzel in Sandton, South Africa.
Earlier this month Gundo earned a place among the 2019 Mail & Guardian 200 Young South Africans! Below is our interview with the phenomenal woman in law.
FWIL:Tell us a little about yourself. (Background, career, interests)
GN:My full names are Gundo Victoria Nevhutanda and I am the first of 4 children. I was born and raised in Vondwe, a village in Venda, Limpopo until I moved to Johannesburg to live with my parents when I was 5 years old. I matriculated at Sutherland High School and went on to study further at the University of Pretoria. I completed the degrees BComm, LLB and LLM (Banking). I am currently completing my Ph.D. at the same university. I am an Associate at Webber Wentzel in the Financial Regulatory practice, a public speaker and my other interests include toastmasters, traveling, hiking and jazz.
FWIL:What inspired your career in law?
GN:I actually wanted to be on TV, and my dad wasn’t having any of that. As a second option, I pursued a BComm law degree majoring in Economics which I love. In the process, I fell in love with the law and it has been an amazing journey.
FWIL:As a woman in law have you experienced any gender bias?
GN:Yes, I have and it really is something I have learned to not shy away from. The legal field is still an old boys’ club. However, I find that when you do what you are there to do and you do it well, your work tends to speak for you and people notice.
FWIL:What does being an alpha female mean to you?
GN:Alpha female is a term I struggle with because I believe that being a female is in itself a superpower.
FWIL:Would you consider yourself a feminist? If yes, what does feminism mean to you? If no, why not?
GN:I do not consider myself to be a feminist. I consider myself to be someone who understands the importance of equality across genders and sexes. I believe in raising boys and girls in the same manner, but I do hold the view that feminism should not be used as a tool to undermine women who do not share these beliefs because that in itself goes against true sisterhood, which is something I advocate for.
FWIL: What is the best advice you would give to aspiring legal professionals?
GN: Be open-minded. It is a challenging but equally rewarding field if you are prepared to put in the work.
FWIL: What recent change/amendment in the law has caught your attention? (do you agree with the change? Why/why not)
GN:The Minimum Wage Act was an interesting one for me because that is an example of how the law gives a voice to the most economically vulnerable. It will also be interesting to see whether the Debt Relief Bill will be passed in the near future.
FWIL: Please tell us about The Dignify Her Foundation
GN: The Dignify Her Foundation (TDHF) is an NPO that I founded in 2016. I was, and still, am deeply concerned about the high rate of girls who miss out of school during their period because they cannot afford sanitary pads. TDHF seeks to keep girls in school by providing them with sanitary support and mentorship. We take care of about 80 girls and we are looking at expanding our reach in the next two years.
FWIL: What are some of your effective networking skills?
GN: Know who is in the room, listen with intent, dress the way you want to be addressed and always reach out after an event/session.
FWIL: What does the term “role model” mean to you? Which phenomenal woman in law would you consider your role model?
GN: When I think of a role-model, I think of someone who epitomizes resilience, courage, and excellence in what they do. My role models are people who challenge the status quo and give the law a voice, a name, and a face. People, who force the legislature and the judiciary to either develop the law, change the law or adapt the law.
FWIL:What books have you read that have greatly influenced your life?
GN:The Bible is by far the biggest influencer in my life. I am also influenced by the stories of people around me, my grandparents’ struggles, stories relayed by other successful people, who have built themselves up from nothing really inspire me.
FWIL:What is a quote that you live by? Your mantra.
GN:My mantra is: “Nothing is impossible”
FWIL:Can you think of a time when you faced a career set back? how did you bounce back?
GN:When I wrote the conveyancing exam in 2017 (the hardest exam I have written to date), I got less than 50% but more than 45%, so this meant that I had to sit for an oral examination with a panel of property law experts. After the oral examination, I was informed that the panel had been divided and they wanted me to come for a second oral exam. This has never happened before; they either pass or fail you. So I sat for a second oral exam, and it was terrible. I think I was mentally and emotionally burnt out. I failed the second re-oral, and I had to pick myself up and register to write again. I wrote the exam the second time and I passed it very well.
FWIL:How do you remain autonomous while working in the legal field?
GN:I have had to learn to balance work and work expectations with my other interests. It is hard, but I am very intentional.
FWIL:Representation matters and it is important for young women in law to see and witness women like you who are doing amazing and breaking the glass ceilings. How important is mentorship and are you open to mentoring younger women in the profession?
GN:Mentorship is fundamental to moving society forward. Mentorship allows people to learn from one another, to impart knowledge and to encourage collaboration while bridging generational gaps and reforming thinking patterns. I am pro-mentorship and I am always open to share what I know and have learned in my personal journey and career with others.
FWIL:What do you look forward to the most in the next five years?
GN:I look forward to reflecting and realizing that I have met and exceeded all the goals I had set for myself 5 years ago. Most importantly, that I have changed lives and made a tangible impact along the way.
FWIL:How can people reach out to you? (social media handles)
LinkedIn: Gundo Nevhutanda
Twitter: Gundo Nevhutanda