Linda becomes second female Lions president

Linda Engelbrecht and her husband Bob Engelbrecht.

Linda Engelbrecht sits at the helm of the Lions Club of Milnerton but recalls a time when the club was for boys only.

Ms Engelbrecht, from Sunningdale, was inducted as the 57th president and second female president of the club last month.

The first was Maise Fischer, who served as president from 2005 to 2007.

Ms Engelbrecht’s predecessor is none other than her husband, Bob Engelbrecht.

Ms Engelbrecht, originally from England, moved with her husband, who is originally from Kenya, to Johannesburg in 1976.

With family and friends close by, the couple had no problem adapting to their new home. It was only when they moved to Cape Town in 1984 that they started feeling lonely, said Ms Engelbrecht.

“We moved to Table View and had no friends or family,” she said.

One day she met a member of Round Table who suggested Mr Engelbrecht join one of the meetings to see what it was all about.

“I never saw Bob for the next seven years,” joked Ms Engelbrecht.

Mr Engelbrecht eventually became the chartered president of the Round Table and when his time was through there, he joined the Lions Club of Milnerton in 1991. During this time, Ms Engelbrecht joined the other members’ wives who she referred to as the “backbone” of the clubs.

“Of course in those days, ladies were not allowed to become Round Tablers or Lions, and so at the Lions Club of Milnerton the Lions Ladies used to meet in the ladies’ bar planning the finer details for the projects the Lions wanted to do. In other words, the Lions Ladies were the backbone of the club assisting in the projects decided upon by the men.”

In 1996, Mr and Ms Engelbrecht moved back to Johannesburg. The rules had changed by then and allowed female members.

Ms Engelbrecht became a Lion in 1997 but resigned five years later to focus on a senior citizens’ friendship club she had started. In 2015 Mr and Ms Engelbrecht moved back to Cape Town and Ms Engelbrecht decided to join the Lions Club of Milnerton.

“It was with great trepidation when I stepped into the Lions Club of Milnerton’s boardroom for the first time for a Lions meeting, where 20 years ago it was sacrilege to enter because I was a lady.”

Presently the female members outnumber the men which has sparked “big banter”.

“I’d like to say that the ladies in the Lions Club of Milnerton are still the backbone of the club, but this wouldn’t be true as although we only have four men as opposed to 11 ladies, surprisingly we all pull our weight to make the club the success it is today”.

Beside her own success as a woman in the Lions Club, she also points out the success of other women, namely, past district governor Geila Wills, who has just been appointed as Lions Clubs’ New Voices Constitutional Area Speaker for Africa. “She was appointed by our new international president who is the first female international president in 101 years. There are only 32 women in the world on this committee and the initiative promotes gender parity by focusing on increasing the number of women in Lions clubs, as well as closing the gap between men and women in leadership positions.”

Ms Engelbrecht encourages everyone to join service organisations. Last year the Lions Club of Athlone and the Lions Club of Mitchell’s Plain were chartered and later this month The Lions Club of Kuils River will be chartered.

“Again, these clubs are mainly made up of women who want to give back to their community instead of being lonely, stuck behind closed doors. And this is the bottom line of it – don’t be lonely. Join an organisation, if not a service organisation, a local charity, etc. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t even want to stand up and say the creed. I don’t like public talking. Now I’m like ‘where’s the mic?’ It’s given me so much confidence.”