‘I’m part of the system, but when I change my behaviour, it also changes the system’ – UP alumna and marketing pro Wendy van Eyck on work, women and GBV

Posted on August 11, 2020

Wendy van Eyck graduated cum laude with a master’s in Development Practice from UP, and is now co-owner of Believ content agency. The marketing strategist tells Primarashni Gower about her work, why women need to get to know themselves and the role we can all play in putting an end to gender-based violence.

PG: Tell us about yourself and your qualifications.

WvE: I am a strategic multidisciplinary marketing professional with an eye for bringing clarity and consistency to the brand communications of companies. My passion is working with non-profit brands – I’m proud to have worked with notable organisations across development sectors, including WaterAid, Project Last Mile, World Bicycle Relief and the African Resource Centre. I have undergraduate degrees in communications and linguistics, and a master’s in Development Practice from UP.

PG: What does your job entail?

WvE: My husband, Xylon, and I own a communications agency. I could spend a day crafting email newsletters for one non-profit, doing research to understand the brand positioning of another, and developing and managing a webinar for a third. I usually work with about five non-profits at a time

What are your aspirations?

WvE: I’m an introvert who wants to make a difference in the world. I realised a long time ago that I work best in the background, giving support to those who want the limelight. That’s why I’ve chosen to set up my business to support non-profits that are making the world a better place.

PG: What are some of the challenges of your job?

WvE: My bank account keeps me motivated! I’m responsible for making sure there are clients who will be covering my salary and those of the people I work with.

PG: How do approach challenges or obstacles in your career?

WvE: I try lots of things, then go with what works. I also try to be patient, and to remember that no one got where they are overnight. I look at the options I have to get around an obstacle, then I try each option until I find one that works. I keep at it until I achieve my goal. For instance, when I wanted to study my undergraduate degree, I didn’t have funding, so I found work as a temp, a waitress and a child minder and studied part time through Unisa.

PG: What have been some of the highlights of your career?

WvE: I started out as a scriptwriter, became a TV producer and eventually a TV channel manager. I left that industry to be the marketing manager at a charity and after a few years, I joined the agency with my husband. When I worked in TV, some of the highlights were opportunities to travel to India, Uganda and the Philippines to learn about TV production. At the charity I had the opportunity to work with big private sector brands and individual fundraisers.

PG: What advice would you give to women today?

WvE: I often have to remind myself how recently women were given the right to vote in many parts of the world. New Zealand was the first country in 1893, Britain in 1918, and the US followed. In South Africa white women were given the right to vote in 1930 and black women only in 1994. It also reminds me how women have to keep standing up for themselves and making opportunities for themselves.

I would encourage women to get to know themselves – lots of people will tell you to be yourself, but it’s hard to be yourself if you don’t know who you are. Be intentional about trying new things, learn how to say no, and set boundaries for the kind of behaviour you are willing to accept and the kind you won’t. Distinguish between what you like to do and what you do because of the expectations of others, then do the stuff you like. If you’re not sure where to start, see a psychologist. Schedule an appointment to see a psychologist once a year, the same way you would a dentist. Once you know yourself, you’ll have less anxiety over making decisions.

PG: How do you think gender-based violence can be eradicated?

WvE: Gender-based violence is caused by inequitable gender norms and power relations. We have to address the root causes of these norms, and that will change based on the context and culture. Sometimes the problem is so huge that we think we need big, national and global solutions to fix it. It starts with me paying men and women in my employ equally; with me making sure that when I am in a meeting, both men and women share their opinion; telling my nieces that they can grow up to be scientists, mathematicians and engineers; and telling my nephews that they can be chefs, clothing designers and nurses. Gender-based violence is systemic – that means I’m part of the system, but that when I change my behaviour, it also changes the system.

- Author Wendy van Eyck

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