Minah Mkhavele is determined that young women of South Africa stand up and be counted. Through her close association with the Young African Leaders Initiative, she is empowering young South African women to proactively engage their communities and effect meaningful change.
As a cohort of the Young African Leadership Initiative, Mkhavele was widely praised for her bold letter to parliament, encouraging consultation on bills concerning young women and children.
Her bold move paid off. She is now among a select group of parliamentary participants. This election has enabled her to propose and execute a mass drive to distribute female sanitary products to schools and other centres throughout the country.
Mkhavele is currently studying towards in a master’s in child protection, where she has identified a particularly vulnerable group of interest to her as an advocate for children’s rights and child-headed households. Child-headed households are at risk of having to cope without parental care or regular income and are located in areas where services are poor. Homes where a sibling undertakes the role of caregiver frequently destabilise a child’s sense of safety and security.
Mkhavele imagines that they “have got no shoulder to lean on at all, I can imagine if there is nothing there, nothing at all”.
Mkhavele has always had an inclination for community-building and advocacy. She remembers herself as a very determined little girl who hosted book clubs, debates and participated in Love Life programmes — an ambitious, focused child who wanted to lead.
She is currently an ambassador for the Girl Child Ambassador programme, a project that “aims to inspire and empower girl children living under disadvantaged circumstances to lead successful, independent and fulfilling lives” Mkhavele’s role as an ambassador is to co-ordinate the multiple events, workshops, training sessions and awareness drives that form part of the organisation’s activities. Mkhavele directs all her energy into this single pursuit. “My wish is to see all African girl children educated, nurtured, empowered and safe.”
Mkhavele is also an alumnus of the Young African Leaders Initiative. The Young African Leaders Initiative was launched in 2010 to support young African leaders as they spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across sub-Saharan Africa.
Mkhavele’s association with the programme sees her continuing to advocate greater access to education and feminine healthcare for South African girls.
When it comes to restoring energy for the tasks ahead, Mkhavele recalls the strength of the women at the historic Women’s March of 1959. In August of that year, 20 000 women of all races descended on the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest the introduction of the apartheid pass laws for black women in 1952.
She is awed by the bravery of those women who “stood up and expressed themselves to be part of the government we see today and to be equal before the law”.
Each day, she brings herself back to her primary goal. The needs of the girl child must be met. “We need to face this head-on,” says Mkhavele. “Out of weeping comes wisdom.”
We have to face the challenge head-on. Out of weeping comes wisdom.