The Power of Women
FOREWORD FROM THE DEPUTY EDITOR
It is an honour every year to work on such a monumental project, through which we celebrate women in all their roles. Reading about their inspiring work gives one hope in a world that often merely pays lip service to true equality. It has been a difficult two years of fighting the pandemic, feeding those who have lost work, and coping with the loss and devastation in many people’s lives. The women we are celebrating this year have not been spared. However, they have continued the important work of building our society, changing spaces that were out of bounds for women, and bringing up others as they climb.
Our focus on the women selected this year highlights their perseverance, consistency and ability to influence positive change and growth. Their perseverance is not simply about going to work every day.
It is centred on actively and intentionally seeking a path that will allow them to make the biggest difference in their field. These are women who are making a difference in their communities, science, investigation, business and agriculture. It is a difficult path, many of these women will tell you, riddled with inequality, loss and hard lessons.
Consistently, these women do what it takes to forge ahead through unchartered terrain to etch out a new path for the next generation. Many have left their comfort zones to make the changes required of their calling or purpose, transitioning from stable jobs to innovation, moving out of government to the NGO space, from mining to technology, from healing to food production, and from home builders to community leaders. What a world women are building.
The women we are celebrating are those who are a reminder of the old adage, “to those that much is given, much is expected”. They work tirelessly for inclusive success by changing their organisations’ systems, creating institutions whose focus is upliftment, and sharing their knowledge so that others can thrive and pass the baton forward.
To all women, we say: Yes, you are the right person for the job. You can take failure and learn from it. You can celebrate yourself as you celebrate others, and you can change the world — and your own corner of it. You are enough and we are waiting to celebrate your successes, as we have with these brilliant, hard-working and innovative 50 Powerful Women.
– Athandiwe Saba
ABOUT OUR HEADLINE SPONSOR
AfroCentric Group is the most diversified healthcare company in Southern Africa, with more than four million lives covered in the region. It is the most transformed entity listed in the healthcare sector of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, with a focus on health administration, health risk management, pharmaceuticals, wellness and disease management, as well as health-centric information and communications technology-based solutions.
The Board of AfroCentric is led by a dynamic and phenomenal woman, Dr Anna Mokgokong. Founded in 2008 on the core philosophy of promoting transformation and empowerment, AfroCentric Group has, since its establishment, focused its efforts on making a sustainable impact in healthcare by increasing access to sustainable, affordable and quality healthcare.
AfroCentric also prides itself on being an empowered and empowering employer, and is committed to gender transformation in the workplace. Its commitment to women empowerment has yielded excellent results — 71% of its employees are women and three out of five of its executive directors with voting rights are women. Furthermore, 46% of the total headcount of senior management roles are women. In addition to this, Afrocentric Group provides bursaries to deserving students and is currently funding the studies of four young women studying medicine.
"Akhona Sass hopes that one day we can get rid of terms such as “the IT guy”, and has steadily been working to subvert the dominance of men in the IT industry by employing more young women at her company, Intotek. Sass became director and owner of the technology and...
“It’s important to start from the bottom and not be scared to get your hands dirty.”
“We wanted to decrease absenteeism and pregnancy rates to keep girls in school. They shouldn’t be missing out on an education because they cannot afford something like a sanitary product, which is a basic human right.”
“I lost my brother in the process of him trying to find a job in this country. Now I strive to give back to my community, in remembrance of him, so no one finds themselves in the same situation.”
Tracy Brander is not afraid of getting her hands dirty. In fact, she would rather be in the field than in the boardroom, drilling for water in an effort to bring safe drinking water and sanitation to all who need it.
“Let’s stop fighting to have a seat at the table with the boys. Let’s build our own table.”
“Practise, practise, practise your craft – if you don’t, you’ll be mediocre.”
“Focus on what you are good at; forget about your weaknesses.”
“I was taught to treat people with respect and dignity. If I have to sit where you are sitting, eat what you are eating, or even bathe you in order for me to build trust and help you, I do that.”
“There is no such thing as a stupid idea, and we should never let our fears and failures become our navigator of life. We are stronger than that.”
“Technology is a key enabler to propel Africa forward. If we can use technology to innovate, then we can reduce many of the struggles and inequalities we face.”
“I choose to challenge women to take their rightful positions in the marketplace, and lead with integrity and dignity.”
“Everybody starts from somewhere. We don’t all start from the same platform, but if you are serious you will get there.”
“There’s this notion that women are jealous of each other, but through our sessions we see women come together with the vision of empowering each other.”
“I want to play a more Pan-African role in the healthcare system of our continent in the future. South Africa has so much that can help other African countries accelerate their health system journeys. I have learnt a lot in my career thus far and I would like to use what I have to build the health systems in other countries.”
“Growing up, I was fed the wrong information about periods. I don’t want my daughter, or anyone, to have the same experience.”
“Giving period products to menstruators is just part of the solution; there is a lot of education that is needed as well.”
“Providing access to communication is our primary goal.”
“Vintage Girls is not just an organisation, it is a calling that will grow with me until I die. I live for Vintage Girls; it is my life.”
“I do hope I get to see a time when women in my field are more respected and receive more recognition. Nurses and midwives put their lives on the line to protect and heal those in their care, sometimes under extremely unfavourable circumstances.”
“In my 20 years in the industry and from advice I received early on in my career, I discovered that there were far more people who wanted me to succeed than those that did not. I seek those people out.”
“I aspire to build leaders who will lead and mentor others. I also aspire to establish hubs where women and girl children will have access to resources and mentorship in business.”
“In standing together as a community, we are trying to effect change for the good of everyone. By keeping the most vulnerable groups, such as children and the elderly, at the centre of our hearts, we have been able to have a stronger and more powerful voice and have protected our community members.”
The mining sector was created by men, for men. We cannot change the industry and talk about diversity, equity and inclusion and exclude the men from the conversation.
Reneé Thompson’s inspiration lies in the strength and determination of women to build collectively for the benefit of themselves, their children and the greater community.
“We have to face the challenge head-on. Out of weeping comes wisdom.”
“I’m all for anything that builds community. Unless we have a strong community, we are not going to get anywhere with anything.”
“I want to see many more black women achieving greatness, not being apologetic for wanting more, wanting better and claiming positions and spaces — without the threat of violence hanging over their heads or discrimination putting them at a disadvantage.”
“If you want to see something good, start by doing it yourself so that you inspire the next person. That’s how we change the world.”
“There is no reason why women in our communities cannot be trained to access global careers. The educational resources are available, and our young people are definitely talented enough to access them.”
“If you have disabled kids, don’t keep them at home; there are opportunities outside.”
“I love hanging around with 100-year-olds who give you life advice that’s pure and brutal.”
“It’s about letting learners know that they deserve to dream big.”
“In South Africa, we are specialists in mediocrity. You must look at best practices and evolve.”
“I am a strong believer that whatever you set your mind to is possible.”
U = U can end the HIV epidemic.
“I hope that one day women will get offered the same credentials and afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Women athletes still get paid far less than men and are overlooked for sponsorship, which undermines their talent.”
Chantell Witten has been engaged in the field of food and nutrition for children for 25 years. She is a dietician with a PhD in nutrition and is currently a lecturer in the faculty of health sciences at the University of the Free State. Her passion lies in infant and young child food and nutrition, with a particular focus on the normalisation of breastfeeding.
Geralda Wildshutt has always wanted to work in the field of social change and knew early on she wanted to become a psychologist.
“I want to see more young women venture into areas that look very daunting, and to realise that they can take up these spaces and own them.”
“I would encourage us to find local, Africa-embedded solutions that consider the local context. All disciplines need us, and women are able to conceive new things that bring life. The generation of ideas for the current and future generations needs more innovators, diverse thinkers and disruptors.”
“My work in rural democracy and women’s rights inspires and heals me at the same time because it’s something I believe in.”
“I hope for our mental and emotional stability as a country that we can embrace more of this type of natural tourism.”
“Work hard and be so good that it’s impossible for people to ignore you.”
“I advise younger women to not shy away from ‘stretch’ opportunities. In fact, seek them out and do not be scared to fail. It’s how one learns and develops skills.”
“It was audacity that got me to start a magazine during a pandemic.”
“If we can create a generation of great ethical, accountable leaders we can build businesses that are responsible and value people more than profit and that look after people’s mental health.”
“I encourage and pursue a life of doing good and helping others where they cannot always help and support themselves in life’s different and very often tragic circumstances.”
Mansingh has shown how to use corporate power and influence to improve the lives of the women in her business, as well as in the broader community.
“There needs to be a realisation of our interconnectedness as people. Once we realise that ‘I am because we are’ — or ubuntu — it will become easier to advocate and implement many of the desires we have for the health system in South Africa and globally.”
“Young women and girls, you have so much potential that you need to exploit. Hard work and potential need to come together and, when they do, they make magic.”