Smart Girl Stories

Set The Bar A Little Higher

As we navigate through life, we all have a unique and important role to play in shaping the world and leaving a lasting legacy for future generations. Today, I am proud to recognize the incredible efforts and unwavering determination of a dear friend of mine, Lerato Dumse. We met when I was in my second year at university, and she was just starting her first year. Lerato is astrong woman and one of the humblest human beings I have ever met. She is a fellow journalist, a photographer, a copy editor, a social media manager, and a researcher. Her art has been exhibited in Brooklyn, New York. I have a great deal of respect for her, and when I look back at how far she has come, it is truly inspiring. She is making a name for herself and is an inspiration to all young people who feel like there is no way out of their situation. Lerato proves that there is always a way out if you work hard enough.

A Strong Woman

Lerato is the youngest of Bukelwa Dumse’s two daughters. Her mother is a strong woman, who comes from a string of strong women she has instilled in her daughters the same values her mothers have instilled in her the spirit of resilience and hard work. She used to say that her mom despises the use of the word “poverty” because poverty is a negative mindset and when you embrace poverty it sticks to you. Instead of saying “You are poor,” it’s better to say “You have financial strains.”

Before attending university, Lerato worked part-time to save money to be able to attend university. Even during school holidays, she would pick up work to continue to fund her schooling. Today, she is a qualified journalist and a respected photographer. She funded her journalism studies with her savings and is now an activist who helps young women from townships find their way and create their own success stories.

‘I want to set the bar a little higher than I found it so that those who come after I know it is possible and they can climb as high as they want’ That’s her response to what motivates her. She is the first person in her family to go to university and also travels abroad. She is not only an inspiration to her family but to her community as well.

Telling Stories Through Her Lens

Lerato travels the world, teaching and sharing her story through her artwork. Her work with visual artist Zanele Muholi should not go unmentioned. She has been involved in the production and the curation of Zanele Muholi exhibitions and had the opportunity to showcase some of her work, named Pride and Loss, in the Jenkins Johnson projects in New York. Lerato is a political journalist and a vocal advocate of her beliefs. She always has a march to attend and tells stories through her lens or words. She is a lesbian and uses her voice to speak out about the injustices the LGBTQ+ community faces. Capturing moments of beauty with her camera Lerato uses it to teach about politics and tell the stories of her friends, family, and of her neighborhood.

A couple of years ago, Lerato reached out to me and encouraged me to start writing again. At the time, I wasn’t ready, but her care and kindness touched me deeply. She understands the struggles of being a strong woman and the vulnerability we all succumb to at some point in our lives Despite having a lot going on for her, she always remembers to check on others, she never forgot to look back, create opportunities, and make room for others to follow. She is a truly remarkable person.

Lerato is a contributor at Inkayiso, an initiative aimed at empowering young women with skills in photography, film, and visual arts. Through this program, Lerato has shared her knowledge and skills in photography and storytelling with hundreds of young women across South African townships and the African continent. The initiative seeks to encourage women to document their lives through photography, filming, and visual art, creating a recollection of their experiences for future generations to learn from.

Du Love Media

She founded Du Love Media as a way to use the skills she has acquired to give back to her community by teaching young people photography, although it is proving to be difficult due to the fact that cameras are a luxury in townships plagued by high unemployment rates. There is such a high amount of unemployment in South Africa with over 7 million people unemployed in the country, 30% of the workforce is unemployed. Learning how to use a camera is less of a priority for someone who is struggling to find the next meal. Although she still teaches and tries to put a smile by documenting her family friends and the people around her, reminding them of the joys and pleasantries of small things. The biggest regret she has is that she has one photograph of her grandmother the woman who taught her how to read, and who also instilled in her the love for storytelling which is why it is so important to her to document all the special moments with her loved one.

Preserving History

History undocumented is easily forgotten and erased, every photo, every video, and every story matters. It is important to preserve our history as a people, sharing experiences and lessons will help guide and inspire future generations. A photo tells a thousand words. A video shows forgotten moments, a story creates legends, and legends give life lessons. That is why it is important to preserve and document our history so that our children, children will know who we were and where they came from.

Read more powerful stories by bold journalists on our Inspiration page, and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram!

Tholakele Mbonani

Tholakele Mbonani

I'm Tholakele Mbonani from South Africa, I am a journalist with a passion uplifting stories about hope and change.


Smart Girl Stories shares stories of inspiration from writers across the globe.

We ask each writer to adhere to our Smart Girl Stories pledge. The views expressed in our articles are those of the author and are meant to spark conversation and inspire you. They don’t necessarily reflect the opinions of SmartGirl Stories. We are honored to share their stories, as well as yours. To learn more – visit us here.

Follow Me

Don't be shy, get in touch. We love meeting interesting people and making new friends.