The Power of Women

FOREWORD FROM THE EXECUTIVE EDITOR

Reading each and every profile of women doing extraordinary things in our society has given me a deeper appreciation of what it is to be a woman. This year, once again, the Mail and Guardian recognises the magnificent work done by ordinary women. These trailblazers also work and walk among us every day. They are driven by the need to change our communities, our towns and villages and our world. Women often go undervalued and unappreciated but this does not deter them from putting their best foot forward, and making an impact in their fields.

These extraordinary women are not only leaders in boardrooms they are leaders in our communities where citizens need food to eat, mental health guidance and answers to the burning realities of our society.

This year the M&G has compiled a list of women from as young as 17 to stalwarts who have seen it all at 80.

This list of Powerful Women includes trailblazers in business, environmental activism, community leaders as well as mental health champions. The world these women are fighting for is one we will benefit greatly from.

These women are taking up space and ensuring their voices are heard to ensure that the coming generations have spaces in which they can talk about and tackle issues of patriarchy, gender-based violence, disabilities, the gender pay gap, politics and many others.

We all want to live in that world where inclusivity for everyone is the norm and women do not have to fight for every inch of space to breathe, to work and to prosper. These powerful women are building that world and taking back every inch.

The Powerful Women list of this year has focused on 50 women who are not only excelling in their chosen fields but have also made it a priority to use their positions to fight for the betterment of our society. These women are inspiring and passionate. They are driven by the fact that women are unsupported and they want to be part of something that is bigger than themselves.

These women are on the path to creating a legacy of being change-makers, not just within their industries but also within the realms of possibilities for women. They want to make sure women are no longer underpaid, overworked and under-valued. They will be remembered as women who were powerful enough to open doors for other women and changed our country one inch at a time.

– Athandiwe Saba

Ayakha Melithafa, 18

Ayakha Melithafa, 18

Climate change activist.
Johannesburg

A fire burning to save the planet and her community is a good way to describe Ayakha Melithafa. At a very young age she focused on speaking the truth, no matter what the barriers. As a child, it is difficult to educate adults and tell them why they should change their...

Athandiwe Saba | mg.co.za
Nomso Kana, 35

Nomso Kana, 35

Managing director
Sun n Shield 84 Tech
Lives between Jhb, South Africa and Windhoek, Namibia

Nomso Kana is a force of power noting that her proudest moments are achieving her degrees, defeating cancer at the age of 23, and being appointed as a governor at the Nuclear Energy Foundation and Agency. Nuclear scientist Nomso Kana is also the founder of two...

Fatima Moosa | mg.co.za
Dr Shakira Choonara, 30

Dr Shakira Choonara, 30

Independent public health practitioner
Johannesburg

Dr Choonara’s empathetic outlook and passion for public healthcare have been shaped by her own experience. Driven by an interest in creating systems that take the human experience into account, Johannesburg-based Dr Shakira Choonara believes healthcare should focus on...

Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha | mg.co.za
Lauren Hermanus, 35

Lauren Hermanus, 35

Founder and director of Adapt
Adapt
Cape Town

The sustainable development researcher and practitioner engages the messy in-between to find solutions to South Africa’s crises. Finding solutions to South Africa’s sustainability problems is a messy business. It requires balancing the interests of a number of...

Sarah Smit | mg.co.za
Jacki Mpondo-Hendricks, Almost 50

Jacki Mpondo-Hendricks, Almost 50

President: Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry / Social Entrepreneur
Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Johannesburg

A woman who truly personifies holistic leadership through ubuntu and a Covid-19 survivor who is not willing to just be a bystander. If there was one piece of advice that Jacki Mpondo-Hendricks could give to her younger self, it would be that life and anything...

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Nhlakanipho Zondi, 33

Nhlakanipho Zondi, 33

Product Marketing Manager at SYSPRO and founder of Inspired by Love
Inspired by Love and SYSPRO
Randburg, Johannesburg

Helping women become the best version of themselves is Zondi’s purpose in life. “Speak up - your voice is valuable,” says Nhlakanipho Zondi, the founder of Inspired by Love. This is a brand that celebrates the power of love and believes in its magnificent ability to...

Fatima Moosa | mg.co.za
Mpho Manyisa, 26

Mpho Manyisa, 26

Sponsorships Consultant for Group Marketing at Discovery
Discovery
Johannesburg

Education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development: This is what drives Mpho to achieve inclusive and quality education for all. Mpho Manyisa has a stellar list of achievements. From being part of Cosmopolitan South Africa’s 25 Under...

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Laurel Oettle, 38

Laurel Oettle, 38

Director, the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA)
Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA)
Pietermaritzburg

A powerful woman who believes working together can help solve South Africa’s land reform challenges. When Laurel Oettle started working at the Association for Rural Advancement (AFRA) in 2015, she found the 45-year-old organisation in a disastrous state. AFRA was...

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Josina Machel, 44

Josina Machel, 44

Activist
Kuhluka Movement
Johannesburg

The abuse from a loved one only made Josina Machel stronger than before. Now she helps other women find the voice that men tried to take away from them. Josina Machel is an activist and the founder of non-profit organisation Kuhluka Movement. The organisation helps...

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Dr Nandipha Magudumana, 31

Dr Nandipha Magudumana, 31

Medical doctor and founder of Optimum Medical Aesthetic Solutions
Optimum Medical Aesthetic Solutions
Johannesburg

Dr Nandipha Magudumana is the founder of Optimum Medical Aesthetic Solutions, a surgery that provides affordable cosmetic surgery treatments, and is an advocate for women’s safety and medical careers. The past year has been...

Buntu Ngcuka | mg.co.za
Professor Tivani Phosa Mashamba-Thompson, 42

Professor Tivani Phosa Mashamba-Thompson, 42

Professor of Diagnostics Research
University of Limpopo
Durban and Polokwane

A medical professional who uses her expertise to not only fight against the coronavirus but also helps uplift her rural Limpopo hometown. As the country grapples with the coronavirus, leading health professional and academic Professor Tivani Phosa Mashamba-Thompson is...

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Dr Matamela Mafune, 28

Dr Matamela Mafune, 28

Medical doctor and founder of The Purple Sisterhood
The Purple Sisterhood
Johannesburg

When she’s not helping the country's healthcare system fight back against the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Matamela Mafune lends her life experience to her passion project, The Purple Sisterhood, a non-profit organisation that provides mentorship and guidance for young...

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Palesa Mokomele, 37

Palesa Mokomele, 37

Entrepreneur
Ezabalobi Media
Western Cape

Palesa Mokomele is a 37-year-old woman who through her company, Ezabalobi Media, works to include marginalised sectors such as small scale fishing into the formal economy. She is a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow and has a Master’s in Political Communication from the...

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Nomsa Masoka, 43

Nomsa Masoka, 43

Speech Therapist and Audiologist
Mothers Of Children With Autism (MOCWA)
Alberton

Raising a child with a disability does not come without its challenges, but Nomsa Masoka has risen above the adversity and brought other mothers along to form lifelong friendships and support. Nomsa Masoka’s son was just three years old when he was diagnosed with...

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, 38

Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, 38

UNHRC special rapporteur, Commission for Gender Equality
United Nation Human Rights Council
Johannesburg

The medical doctor and sexual health advocate has changed the way we talk about pleasure. Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng spent her self-isolation indulging in her love of Korean culture: cooking her favourite dishes and watching K-dramas on Netflix. The sexual and reproductive...

Sarah Smit | mg.co.za
Dr Lydia Cairncross, 44

Dr Lydia Cairncross, 44

Head of Groote Schuur Hospital’s Breast and Endocrine Surgery Unit, associate professor of surgery, and activist.
Groote Schuur Hospital, UCT, People’s Health Movement.
Cape Town

This associate professor of surgery’s ongoing involvement with the People’s Health Movement of South Africa allows her to continue her impactful medical work while fighting for an egalitarian system. Dr Lydia Cairncross is an associate professor of surgery at the...

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Dr Glenda Davison, 59

Dr Glenda Davison, 59

Associate Professor and Head of the Biomedical Sciences Department
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Cape Town

Dr Glenda Davison champions an inclusive and comprehensive learning environment that encourages empathy in students and a greater understanding of the inequalities across local communities. In the current global pandemic, Dr Glenda Davison’s name has become a familiar...

Lucienne Bestall | mg.co.za
Lesego Masethe, 33

Lesego Masethe, 33

Founder of Brain Waves Development
Brain Waves Development
Pretoria

Brain Waves Development is giving learners the opportunity to engage and interact with science in indigenous African languages, that makes learning comfortable and relevant. Born and raised in Mamelodi, Pretoria, Lesego Masethe says that, looking back, there were many...

Afrika Bogatsu | mg.co.za
Safura Abdool Karim, 28

Safura Abdool Karim, 28

Public health and human rights lawyer, and senior researcher
SAMRC Centre for Health Economics and Decision Science – PRICELESS SA, Wits School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand
Johannesburg

In her endeavours to make South Africa a healthier country, Safura Abdool Karim knows the importance of continuing to try, even when it feels like failure is inevitable. “Too often, we are afraid to make mistakes but, really, we should celebrate our mistakes as part...

Fatima Moosa | mg.co.za
Sarah Cressey, 27

Sarah Cressey, 27

Project Manager
The Grace Factory
Johannesburg

Leveraging the network that she gained while competing in Miss South Africa, Cressey is dedicated to improving the circumstances of new mothers and their babies – and our collective understanding of reproductive rights. Finding the courage to enter the Miss South...

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Carla Watson, 31

Carla Watson, 31

Head of the National Jakes Gerwel Graduate Teaching Fellowship Founder of foryouandyours.co.za
Foryouandyours.co.za and the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship
Cape Town

A teacher turned education activist who advises young people to take up teaching as a way to contribute positively to society. The Jakes Gerwel Fellowship is named after one of South Africa’s most prominent anti-apartheid activists and academics, Professor Jakes...

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Neo Rethabile Selebano, 33

Neo Rethabile Selebano, 33

NPC founder
EmaLenna Foundation
Soweto

A woman on a mission, to develop a culture of sharing individual stories and creating a safe space for those who suffer from depression, Neo Selebano is changing her community for the better. Neo Selebano is all about giving back to the community. She is well known...

Fatima Moosa | mg.co.za
Onthatile Pooe, 17

Onthatile Pooe, 17

Student
South Africa

At just 17, she has created a space for the discriminated to engage with the rest of society. When Onthatile Pooe’s idea of creating a platform to discuss social issues facing minorities was rejected at school, the zest of youth kicked in. She could have thrown in the...

Eyaaz Matwadia | mg.co.za
Mahlatse Nkuna, 28

Mahlatse Nkuna, 28

Mahlatse is currently crowdfunding for her sex reassignment surgery
Soweto

How transitioning saved Mahlatse Nkuna. I have two birthdays. The day my mother gave birth to her and the day I gave birth to myself. My transgender rebirth day is November 15 2017; this is the day I saw a doctor about starting hormone replacement therapy and left...

Mahlatse Nkuna | mg.co.za
Buhle Hanise, 37

Buhle Hanise, 37

Chartered Accountant
Africa Women Chartered Accountants BAIC Automobile SA
Johannesburg

Like many other students, Hansie has failed, but her relentless drive has seen her become an influential CA. The mind of a businesswoman with a heart of gold. This barely describes Buhle Hanise’s personality. She is a qualified Chartered Accountant and was recently...

Eyaaz Matwadia | mg.co.za
Zema Sokhanyile, 29

Zema Sokhanyile, 29

Founder of Mie Cup menstrual cup startup
Mie Cup menstrual cup startup
Muizenburg, Cape Town

A menstrual cup made in South Africa by a struggling socialist stuck in a capitalist society. Own your period. That is the motto that Zema Sokhanyile wants to spread with her menstrual cup brand. As society moves into more environmentally-friendly ways of life,...

Pontsho Pilane | mg.co.za
Lerato Moloko, 39

Lerato Moloko, 39

Founder of The Grip
The Grip
Johannesburg

Racial and gender inequality permeates the golfing world and Lerato Moloko is addressing the issue head-on and growing the game by focusing on representation. From beekeeping to golfing, Lerato Moloko is a talented entrepreneur who, above all else, is motivated to...

Shai Rama | mg.co.za
Dr Salome Maswime, 37

Dr Salome Maswime, 37

Head of Global Surgery
University of Cape Town
Soweto

Being a young, brilliant black woman comes with its own challenges, even as a doctor. Salome Maswime wears many hats. A gynaecologist by training, she is also an associate professor and the head of global surgery at the University of Cape Town — and she’s the...

Pontsho Pilane | mg.co.za
Saray Khumalo, 48

Saray Khumalo, 48

Executive
Momentum Multiply
Johannesburg

The climbs by the first black African woman to conquer Mount Everest are dedicated to people who dare to dream – providing an inspiring message and changing the narrative for the next generation. Saray Khumalo is a Johannesburg-based businesswoman, mountaineer and...

Shai Rama | mg.co.za
Tshepiso Aina, 42

Tshepiso Aina, 42

Founder and Director
Tshepiso Mokoena
Washington, DC

Having seen first-hand the extent of the challenges facing the Deaf community, Aina took the situation into her own hands with the Tshepiso Mokoena Foundation – offering developmental support, services, healthcare and empowerment to deaf people throughout South...

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Angela Larkan, 36

Angela Larkan, 36

Executive director
Thanda
Hibberdene

The founder of Thanda is dedicated to handing power back to women — by giving them the knowledge, support and breathing room to improve their own lives. When it comes to manifesting meaningful societal change, the most impactful shifts are a result of sowing seeds...

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Dr Hlengiwe Ndlovu, 35

Dr Hlengiwe Ndlovu, 35

Postdoctoral researcher and research fellow
Centre for Women and Gender Studies at Nelson Mandela University
Johannesburg

For Hlengiwe Ndlovu being powerful means standing in the gap, inspiring hope and encouraging those who come after you that anything is possible. Dr Hlengiwe Ndlovu’s many achievements are a testament to her continued commitment to social justice as an academic, policy...

Lucienne Bestall | mg.co.za
Shanthini Naidoo, 39

Shanthini Naidoo, 39

Journalist
Johannesburg

With her new book, Women In Solitary, Naidoo hopes to alter the way South African women see themselves — and rekindle a desire to fight injustice and change the path of history by standing strong. Although most people are familiar with the Rivonia Trial that sent...

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Nokuzola Ndwandwe, 26

Nokuzola Ndwandwe, 26

Menstrual Health Activist
Team Free Sanitary Pads
KwaHlabisa, KwaZulu-Natal

Nokuzola Ndwandwe is championing access to sanitation, menstrual health and gender equality. By 2030, Nokuzola Ndwandwe imagines a world that has ended gender inequality and eradicated period poverty. Her part in making this vision a reality is through her activism....

Nelisiwe Msomi | mg.co.za
Malaika Mahlatsi, 28

Malaika Mahlatsi, 28

Senior speechwriter to the executive mayor in the City of Ekurhuleni
City of Ekurhuleni
Johannesburg

Being a woman in a patriarchal society has its pitfalls, but Malaika Mahlasti says this should not stop women from assuming their rightful place in the world. Malaika Mahlatsi’s best-selling book, Memories of a Born-Free (2014), begins with a powerful letter to the...

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Nardos Bekele-Thomas, 61

Nardos Bekele-Thomas, 61

Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative
United Nations
South Africa

From Ethiopia to the US, she has influenced social justice wherever she has been. Nardos Bekele-Thomas is currently the resident coordinator of the United Nations (UN) and resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in South Africa. At...

Eyaaz Matwadia | mg.co.za
Muditambi Ravele, 58

Muditambi Ravele, 58

Founder
South African Women and Sports Foundation
Johannesburg

Ravele is a leading woman, creating space for women in sports. If sport and women empowerment had an equation, Muditambi Ravele would be the answer to it. The 58-year-old hails from the royal lineage of the Ravele clan chieftaincy and is related to the king of the...

Nelisiwe Msomi | mg.co.za
Nomahlubi Jakuja, 30

Nomahlubi Jakuja, 30

Economic policy researcher
National department of health
Johannesburg

Politics and economics top achiever. Nomahlubi Jakuja describes herself as an opportunist because she has an eye for opportunity and is never afraid to seize one, a trait she believes she inherited from her father. The 30-year-old from Johannesburg is the youngest of...

Nelisiwe Msomi | mg.co.za
Lungi Mamabolo, 37

Lungi Mamabolo, 37

Key Accounts Manager
Progress Administrators
Klipfontein View, Midrand

Communities are built by women who have open hearts and open doors to help those in need and take charge when the state fails people all the time. “My proudest moments are when I walk away from any scene having offered some assistance,” says Lungi Mamabolo. The...

Fatima Moosa | mg.co.za
Kagiso Musi, 44

Kagiso Musi, 44

Group Managing Director
Meta Media
Johannesburg

An advertising powerhouse who strives to initiate change in an industry that is notorious for non-transformation. More black women are required in executive positions in the South African advertising industry. That’s according to managing director at Meta Media,...

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Karen Dudley, 56

Karen Dudley, 56

Director of Education from ECD to grade nine
Western Cape Education Department
Bellville, City Cape Town, South Africa

Passion is not the only thing that drives Karen Dudley to excel but it is her purpose, which is the strongest connection to the soul. “When someone says to me ‘you can’t’, I make sure I upskill myself and those around me and I say ‘go for it’.” “Take time to listen...

Fatima Moosa | mg.co.za
Yandisa Sokhanyile, 36

Yandisa Sokhanyile, 36

Founder of Konecta
Konecta
Johannesburg

The businesswoman who believes that the best invention in our country will come from rural communities as they invent for survival, without support and opportunities. For techie and entrepreneur Yandisa Sokhanyile, business has always been about making an impact in...

Sabelo Skiti | mg.co.za
Dorah Marema, 42

Dorah Marema, 42

Independent public health practitioner
Green Business College
Limpopo

The greening champion who is making sure that unemployed, underemployed, and those looking to augment their income have the skills to start and operate their own green business. A rare opportunity to work and learn alongside a social entrepreneur in Sri Lanka three...

Sabelo Skiti | mg.co.za
Marise Grobler, 47

Marise Grobler, 47

Manager
Urban Concepts
Woodstock, Cape Town

Marise Grobler believes in the power of women and the significant role they play at work and at home. She is the founder of Urban Concepts, an architecture and design company based in the Western Cape. The company has extensive experience working with sensitive sites,...

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Boitumelo Loate, 32

Boitumelo Loate, 32

Junior portfolio manager
36ONE Asset Management
Edenburg

Boitumelo Loate co-manages funds of over R3 billion and, as a passionate young woman who is not afraid to challenge norms and dogmatic thinking, she hopes to become a face of change. One of the few women working for a top hedge fund in the country, Boitumelo Loate is...

Tshegofatso Mathe | mg.co.za
Farah Fortune, 40

Farah Fortune, 40

Director
African Star Communications
Johannesburg

Being a powerful woman is only valid if you use that power to help other women; Fortune uses her work in public relations and events management to champion the development and talent of women, who are frequently sidelined in these male-dominated industries. Armed with...

Thando Maeko | mg.co.za
Yolanda Cuba, 42

Yolanda Cuba, 42

Group chief digital and fintech officer
MTN Group
Johannesburg

Cuba describes herself as a hands-on leader who’s constantly learning, tech-savvy and fearless in her decision-making — qualities that have served her well. Having travelled an already admirable career path, Yolanda Cuba now has a role that’s cemented her as one of...

Buntu Ngcuka | mg.co.za
Moipone Nana Magomola, 70

Moipone Nana Magomola, 70

Chairperson of GIBB Holdings
GIBB Holdings Pty Ltd
Johannesburg

As a lawyer and leading businesswoman with a career spanning leadership roles in widely varied industries, Magomola has created positive change in her many spheres of influence. Moipone Nana Magomola’s career has taken her to leadership positions in a wide variety of...

James Nash | mg.co.za
Mathabo Kunene, 80

Mathabo Kunene, 80

Executive Managing Trustee
The Mazisi Kunene Foundation Trust/Kunene Museum
Durban

For decades Mathabo Kunene has been building South Africa one business and foundation at a time. She is stalwart and has a wealth of knowledge she is using to build the country’s future powerful women. At 80 years of age, Mathabo Kunene does not plan on stopping...

Fatima Moosa | mg.co.za
Pinky Mashiane, 49

Pinky Mashiane, 49

Founder and president of the United Domestic Workers of South Africa
United Domestic Workers of South Africa (Udwosa)
Pretoria

The founder of the United Domestic Workers of South Africa has championed the rights of those in an often ignored sector. Pinky Mashiane is not the type of trade unionist we often find today. The founder and president of United Domestic Workers of South Africa...

Sarah Smit | mg.co.za