On her 13th birthday, gang members broke into the family home of Iris Cupido and raped her. Feeling let down by her family and victimised by her peers at school, she ran away to Johannesburg where she slept in parks and lifts. Of course, this is not the end of the story.
Born during the period of high apartheid and categorised as Coloured, Iris has a story that is as complex as it is interesting. On her father’s side, her great grandfather had been one of the white British founders of Durban and her great grandmother a Zulu princess. Iris’s mother Maureen has an English grandfather, but her grandmother came to Natal from India. Her father Morris Fynn, a struggle veteran, is recognized as a Zulu Chief.
Part of Iris’s childhood was spent in the village in Hlokozi, on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast. To get to her Ixopo school from her South Coast home she would leave at 4 am, walk 11 km to the bus stop, then travel 60 km to Ixopo. When her mother was displaced by her husband’s common law wives, she moved her children to the Coloured township of Wentworth. ‘Wenties’, as it is known, is notorious for gangsters, drug abuse and general poverty. It was here, living with up to 12 people in a two bedroomed house, that Iris was raped.
After she ran away from home, a kind family saw her on the streets and decided to take her in. She remained there for five years, earning her keep by doing odd jobs. However, after falling pregnant, she decided to return home but she was “penniless, jobless and educationless”. Yet by sheer willpower and determination, she began to turn her life around.
She studied hard to get the education she had missed out on, started doing the most menial jobs as a factory kitchen assistant, and gradually won recognition for her abilities. She worked her way up the ladder and became an Accounts Director for a major advertising agency, General Manager for marketing and tourism at KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Tourism, the Corporate Social Investment Manager of the Bidvest Group and at present, she is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the SABC foundation. During her time at KZN Tourism, her leadership led to the province becoming the leading tourism destination with South Africans and the 2nd best destination with international visitors.
She was voted the 2011 National Woman of the Year in the Motor Industry SA Awards, is involved in a number of professional organisations (including the Institute of People Management), was chosen by Tokyo Sexwale to be one of 16 candidates (out of 200000 applicants) to appear on the Reality TV Series, The Apprentice SA, served on several boards, including the Small Enterprise Development Agency and the Institute for Partnerships between Education and Business and she is currently a Board Member of the Ethekwini Foundation.
As CEO of the SABC foundation, Iris is in charge of the Social Corporate Investment activities of the SABC foundation, which means that she has to make sure that the SABC helps as many struggling South Africans as possible. The SABC Foundation also provides bursaries to students who have excelled in school but lacks the money to go and study further.
A mother of 3 children, it is no surprise that Iris is passionate about helping women who are abused, hurting and vulnerable. In 2011, Iris travelled to the United Nations in New York to represent Africa at a conference on women and gender equality. She used the opportunity to network with powerful stakeholders, all in the hope that she could further the cause of her CSI initiatives and attract more funding.
On her 13th birthday, gangsters broke into the home of Iris Cupido and raped her, hoping to break her. They failed.