tough cookie

The introduction of gender legislation has no doubt redefined the role of women in society. Since the passing of the law, the country has seen the emergence of a new breed of women.

They are tough and bold, and are not afraid to take the bull by its horns as they take their rightful place in society. They are taking the lead in fields once reserved for men only.

Nivea Sekele, 29, a bus driver and bodybuilder, is one such woman. Stationed in Roodepoort on the West Rand, Seleke is one of the few black women bodybuilders and bus drivers in Gauteng and is making no fuss about it.

"Most people are still not used to seeing women bus drivers and are usually fascinated when they see one. To me it's just a job. I've always had a passion for driving buses and trucks," she says.

As a long-distance bus driver, Seleke spent more time on the road than at home and has no regrets about it.

"I have no regrets because I am doing what I love most."

When she was not working, Sekele, then a successful athlete, would be on the track, preparing for her next race.

"I love sport. I started doing athletics when I was in Grade 5 and only switched to bodybuilding in 2005 because my shifts usually clashed with my training schedule," says Sekele, a sport management graduate and a single mother to a five-year-old boy.

During her tenure as a professional athlete, Sekele was named sportswoman of the year while she was studying at Wits Technikon and has represented the country in international tournaments.

As a bodybuilder, Sekele has set her mind on becoming the first black woman bodybuilder to compete nationally. She also wants to play for the women's rugby team.

While most people would raise eyebrows over her choice of work and sport, Seleke says she has learnt to turn the criticism to a positive.

"I use the opportunity to educate people about the sport. I tell them it is all about attitude. Women can do whatever men can do - and we can do it even better," she says.She is amused by men who find her well-developed muscles intimidating.

"Some men at gym are so intimidated that they avoid doing weights in my presence. Others challenge me. They want to prove to themselves that they are stronger than me," says Sekele.

Others quip that she would not be able to conceive because of the sport she does. "That is so ridiculous. I usually tell those people that I'm not training my womb, I'm just training my stomach. Just because I have a six pack doesn't mean that I can't fall pregnant."

Sekele says she is not fazed by people who mistake her for a man because of her physique.

"This is who I am. I've started to wear earings to enhance my feminism, but I can't change who I am." She adds: "I'll also be wearing skirts to work now that my employer is introducing new uniforms for women drivers."

She specifically laughs off suggestions that women bodybuilders choose the sport to be like men.

"I find it strange that people are not complaining about women playing soccer, but raise eyebrows whenever they see a woman bodybuilder. To me bodybuilding is a sport just like any other."

To develop the muscles, Sekele says she goes to gym twice a day (during her lunch break and after work) and does a lot of weightlifting.

The only snag for women bodybuilders is their difficulty in finding companions, says Sekele.

"Most men are intimidated by us. They think we will knock them out," she says jokingly.

But hope is not lost yet. Sekele is confident that love will find her. In the meantime, the bus roars on...

What to do if you want to become a bodybuilder

l Be a gym member;

l Get a personal trainer who will show you the exercises to do to train different parts of the body;

l Follow a strict diet and stick to it;

l Eat, eat and eat (the correct food);

l Stay away from steroids.

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l Do you have a question or comment on grooming or nutrition matters? Please call, write to or e-mail Khanyi Nkosi.