Sam Gqomo is passionate about empowering women in Africa to reach their potential, which is why, in 2012, she founded the WoMandla Foundation. WoMandla, a combination of “women” and “amandla” (meaning power or strength in isiXhosa and isiZulu), aims to inform, empower and equip women and girls by building sustainable communities.
In roughly a decade, the WoMandla Foundation has made significant strides. The organisation, made up of a team of executive committee members who are committed to educating, equipping and empowering African women, is centred on the spheres of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, as well as mentorship and entrepreneurship.
Alongside key partnerships, the foundation has awarded 20 African women bursaries to MANCOSA, an education provider in Cape Town. It has held career expos at two schools in Langa, Cape Town, which exposed more than 3 000 learners to the possibilities of further study.
Gqomo, who is known for her go-getter attitude, strong work ethic and enthusiasm for any task set in front of her, was among the participants in the first Academy of Women Entrepreneurs course in South Africa, an initiative funded by the United States.
In 2019, she was commended as a #CTHero by the Cape Town government for WoMandla Foundation’s role in women empowerment in the face of gender-based violence (GBV) and, as a result of her experience and advocacy, she has been invited to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, as well as the World Youth Forum in Egypt.
This year, she represented South Africa in the Youth Giving Summit — an international youth grant-making programme that supports independence and fosters leadership development — that focused on catalysing the impact of global youth.
Gqomo has learnt important lessons in the workplace. Having experienced burnout one too many times, she knows that no one can pour from an empty cup.
So, every day, she shows up as her truest self. This means making tough decisions and having uncomfortable conversations, as well as being honest with herself. Time and space to learn and live passionately is important: “If I want to go the distance and build world-changing organisations, I cannot sacrifice myself.”
Gqomo has big dreams for WoMandla’s role in the future. One of her chief goals is to end GBV, a widespread and entrenched problem in Africa that deeply affects the psychology, dreams and futures of women across the continent.
“Our goal as an organisation is aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5, which is to achieve gender equality and empower 100 000 women and girls by 2030,”
With the right opportunities, she is committed to empowering women in South Africa in every way possible. “If I could change anything, it would be the mind-set of our society and the gendered power inequalities rooted in patriarchy that keep us back as a country.”
Gqomo knows that with resources, education and opportunities, every woman can rise up and reach their potential.