Introduction

Every year for Women’s Month, the Mail & Guardian has made a point to profile the transformative work done by women. From what began as the Book of South African Women, which was a directory featuring pioneering women across different social spheres. The book grew to become a coffee table collector’s item, which profiles phenomenal women – sharing their stories of how they became the powerhouses they are.

This project has consistently been a celebration of excellence and a testimony to the tireless work done by South African women.

All across the globe, 2019 has been dubbed the year of the visionary woman… And in South Africa, it’s no different. We are seeing stories of women shattering ceilings, redefining what it means to be successful and speaking out about the injustices in their communities and beyond.
These women are groundbreakers. Truth tellers. Change agents.

They are challenging the status quo. Marching on the streets and playing their role in shaping the nation we live in.
These outstanding individuals stand on the shoulders of a long line of resilient, bold and renegade women who came before them. This multi-platform project will tell the stories of women who are game changers, innovators and are changing the South Africa in South Africa.

About Powerful 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