… Mona-Liza makes a difference at MVA Fund
THE old adage, ‘hard work pays off’ best describes the road to success of Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) Fund (MVA) Head of Corporate Communication, Mona-Liza Garises (MG).
Affectionately known as Mona, the affable mother of two boys started off as a cleaner and tea lady at KPMG Chartered Accountants, and was later a receptionist at Shell Namibia. She rose through the ranks and played a key role in its transformation from Shell Namibia to Vivo Energy Namibia.
It was at Shell Namibia that she found her passion for road safety, which ultimately led her to MVA Fund. The massive parastatal is known for providing assistance and benefits to all people injured, as well as the dependants of those killed in motor vehicle crashes. It is statutorily mandated to design, promote and implement crash and injury prevention measures. In an interview with Confidente’s Marianne Nghidengwa (MG), Mona spoke passionately about her exciting yet challenging duties, as a communications manager, and spending time with her loved ones, as a way of having fun.
MN: Give us a snapshot of who you are.
MG: I am most importantly a mother to my two wonderful boys, a sister, aunt and daughter. I embrace positivity and I hope to have inspired a person or two in my lifetime.
MN: Briefly tell us about your upbringing. Would you say that played a role in who you are today?
MG: I am my mother’s only daughter, with two brothers. I also have a sister and brother from my father’s side. I grew up reserved, in a low-income household, with both my parents ensuring that I had their love and protection. In hindsight, they ensured that I had access to the best of things they could afford, with the little income they had. Most importantly, they ensured that I attended the best schools and attained a tertiary qualification. Up until this year, I was the only female in my (extended) family with a university qualification. As a young child, I mimicked accountability, responsibility, hard work, a sense of maturity and a belief in self. This came from my mother, who has always been my rock. I thank God every day for having her. My dad played an important role in my life, and his passing a few years ago touched me greatly. May his soul rest in peace; I still miss him every day.
MN: Tell us about your career as a communications practitioner. Also, what does your role as corporate communication head at the MVA Fund entail?
MG: I started my career as a cleaner and tea lady at KPMG Chartered Accountants, after which I filed documents at Shell Namibia. At Shell, I worked my way up as receptionist, management secretary and ultimately as an external affairs manager, with that position later changing to corporate communications manager. Having had the opportunity to put a strong and well-reputed international company, such as Shell, on the Namibian map, was indeed a career-defining moment for me. As corporate communication manager, I was instrumental in Shell’s transition to Vivo Energy Namibia. While at Shell/Vivo Energy, I spent a lot of personal time and company resources in road safety. I realised that I have a passion for road safety, and that is what ultimately led me to the MVA Fund, an institution which plays a crucial role in the care of people, who are affected by road crashes. In a nutshell, my role as head corporate communication entails ensuring appropriate portrayal and representation of the fund’s corporate image and the preparation of information, communication materials for strategic interventions and campaigns, in order to enhance the desired image of the fund among stakeholders and the general public. It has been an awesome and awakening three years thus far.
MN: What is the best part of your job and what causes you the most frustration?
MG: The best part of the current job is that I get to interact with different people, both internally (employees) and externally (especially the media). The job also requires a lot of writing, something which I enjoy doing. I also enjoy emceeing at events. While at Shell/Vivo Energy, I used to enjoy public speaking. The one thing that causes frustration is having to meet a deadline, and not having all the facts at hand.
MN: The field is always changing, how do you keep up-to-date with regards to personal development and contributing to the company’s success?
MG: Between the hustle and bustle of life (balancing home and work), and getting to know the institution and acclimatising to its culture, it becomes a bit challenging to pursue additional academic courses. What I have been doing in the meantime is to engage other public relations practitioners, and I have of late started to read on the subject, in order to remain relevant. The main challenge, I believe, is in finding ways to remain relevant in the field. I continue to give my best to the institution at all times.
M N : What would you like to being done to empower and ensure that other women succeed at the MVA Fund?
MG: The MVA Fund is one of the few institutions which not only believes in, but promotes women empowerment. Of course, having an exemplary female CEO helps. It starts with small gestures, such as delegating important tasks to team members, finding ways to meet team members halfway (merging different personalities), in order to allow personal growth, and really for women to be alert enough to identify opportunities and make the most of such opportunities.
MN: What sort of advice would you give a college or university student interested in getting into the communication field?
MG: It is an exciting field, as no two days are ever the same. Today, the field has become so dynamic, with advancements in technology and new platforms and ways for communication. If you have these traits: confidence, integrity and humility, passion and a never-say-die attitude, you are good to go. Believe in yourself, and remember, your attitude determines how you live your life. Even if, at any given time, your choices of action are limited, your choices regarding your attitude are not. Always choose a positive attitude. And take responsibility; at any moment your attitude can be that of a victim or of a creator.
MN: What don’t people know about you?
MG: I am very protective of my loved ones. And, I am a very, very tough cookie. I am also quite loyal, at times to my own detriment. In the near future, I want to venture into child/youth/community empowerment; of late I have this pressing urge to make a difference in other people’s lives.
MN: What do you do for a little fun?
MG: Fun for me is spending time with my family – be it just at home, being in each other’s company, movie nights at home, an occasional swimming or walk in nature at Groot Aub, w
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