Hlubi Mboya Arnold was born in Alice in Eastern Cape, South Africa. She is best known for her role in the South African Broadcasting Corporation drama Isidingo, in which she portrayed the long-running show’s first HIV-positive character. Mboya Arnold is a social-justice activist, a social-entrepreneurship advocate, a sportswoman, an educator and a scholar, and is an executive director of two not-for-profit organisations: Future CEOs, which supports South Africans whose socioeconomic circumstances exclude them from accessing top business education and professional development opportunities; and Sunshine Cinema, a solar-powered mobile cinema that converts solar energy into social impact.
Hlubi Mboya Arnold was interviewed about her life, career and hope for the future for 200 WOMEN, a book and exhibition project founded on the principle of gender equality comprising original interviews and accompanying photographic portraits. This landmark project is the realisation of an epic global journey to find two hundred women with diverse backgrounds, and to ask them what really matters to them.
Q. What really matters to you?
What matters to me is protecting children; although I don’t have my own kids, I lose sleep worrying about other people’s children. I’m passionate about ensuring that every child receives a quality education, and, especially, that young girls reach their full potential. One of my greatest role models is Oprah Winfrey; her academy takes in girls who have nothing – girls who have experienced violence and extreme disadvantage – and is giving them the skills to converse and engage with any- and everybody. That’s what I want for all girl children in Africa.
Although my name is a Xhosa name, it defies the archetypal Xhosa woman because it means ‘different kind of girl.’ I interpret it as representing strength, unity, passion and love of one another, and that interpretation informs my work as an activist. I’m a feminist, but I don’t believe in the exclusion of men – I believe in the inclusion of all. In terms of gender equality, the work is all about breaking the glass ceiling. There are so many double standards in the corporate environment and there is still so much violence in the workplace – this is not limited to physical violence, it can be something as ‘simple’ as marginalising women.
Q. What brings you happiness?
Myself: happiness has to start within you.
Q. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Physical violence and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, stress and suicide are big issues in the black community, so I would say pain, in all its forms.
Q. What would you change if you could?
My world is my country, so I want all my people to be educated; I want them to thrive as equals and be empowered to become their own ambassadors for change.
Q. Which single word do you most identify with?
Love: it pours out of me.