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Tebogo Makoe

Executive director: Human capital and transformation
AfroCentric Group
Executive MBA – University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business MA – University of the Witwatersrand Breakthrough programme for senior executives – IMD Lausanne Campus, Switzerland Leadership and organisational renewal – Harvard Business School Global executive development programme – Gordon Institute of Business Science Business School Strategic human resources – University of Cape Town Bachelor social science – University of Cape Town
University of Cape Town, GIBS Business School, Harvard Business School, University of the Witwatersrand

Tebogo Makoe, a specialist in human resources and Sasol’s former vice-president of HR operations support, boasts a storied career in people management that’s been thriving for more than a decade.

“It’s all about looking for untapped potential while creating an enabling environment for others to develop, creating sustainable generations of leaders,” she says. To stay sharp, she continues to hone her professional skills.

Makoe is a graduate of the Gordon Institute of Business Science Business School as well as the Harvard Business School.

“Investing in personal development is priceless,” Makoe believes. “Mingling with great minds at global educational institutions is an extraordinary experience that cannot be easily substituted. It helps with staying ahead of the curve.”

Her time spent at leading educational and business institutions has had an incredible impact on Makoe, helping her grow from strength to strength, and ultimately leading her to her most recent position.

At the beginning of the year, she joined AfroCentric Group as the new group executive of human capital and transformation for health. Although she has a wealth of experience in people management and HR, this is her first foray into the healthcare industry after years spent at Eskom and Sasol.

“AfroCentric is on a mission to transform healthcare by making it affordable and accessible. The impact is big and opportunities to make a difference are many,” Makoe says, outlining how she was drawn to the position.

During her time working for these large companies, the University of Cape Town and University of the Witwatersrand graduate has learned the value of teamwork and surrounding yourself with the right people.

“Establishing a strong senior team as early on as possible helps in positively managing your energy. Surrounding yourself with knowledgeable people and connecting with colleagues has a positive impact on one’s journey to becoming a senior,” she explains.

Being an intermediary between employees and executives has its challenges, but Makoe is adamant about reaping the benefits too, especially as she’s climbed the corporate ladder herself.

“Treating the chief executive, executive committee team and board as a source of insight and advice rather than an obligation has transformed each engagement into a source of energy rather than a drain of energy.”

Through her experience engaging with employees up and down the corporate structure of businesses, Makoe often leads diverse teams from various fields. She has always been drawn to developing people and offers a wealth of knowledge to professionals, both young and old.
“Rather delay fast-tracking being in a senior position and instead empower yourself with knowledge so that you seize the next opportunity with confidence and engage equally with your peers,” she emphasises.

When asked what advice she has for girls and young women, she says:

“It can be done, it can be achieved, go get it. I hope in our paths as senior executives we do not fail them, but enable them to go get it.”

Author - Nabeel Allie
Samantha Le Roux

Samantha Le Roux

Founder and president
Cornerstone Woman
Grade 7

“To change one life is a blessing — we’ve changed many. Have we changed enough? Certainly not,”

says Samantha Le Roux, founder and hands-on president of Cornerstone Woman.

Le Roux says that she attended “the school of life” and she left formal schooling at the age of 14 to run her family’s restaurant business. After working in hospitality in South Africa and London, she successfully pursued a career in IT. Her career took a turn when she established a mentorship business after realising her passion for uplifting and enlightening people.

Life took her on this new path after she got out of an abusive relationship of nearly eight years. “Eventually, I was locked out of my own home, my car was taken and all financial support was cut off,” she says.

With the support of her friends and family, Le Roux got back on her feet — stronger than ever. Realising that her recovery is not a reality for many victims of domestic abuse, Le Roux saw a glaring gap in the services that were available.

Knowing that these survivors have little to no support to regain their lives after destructive cycles of abuse and that families lack the necessary support to heal loved ones to regain their hope for a different future, Le Roux was inspired to establish a dynamic organisation.

Cornerstone Woman is a support network for victims of domestic abuse as they go through their processes of healing and getting back to living the lives they aspire to.

Cornerstone Woman is a faith-based not-for-profit organisation built around the idea of bringing healing to the family structure as a whole.

“We support everyone,” says Le Roux, who adds that society has viewed domestic abuse as a “low-income issue”, when it actually affects every sphere of society. She feels that the middle-to-affluent demographic has previously been misunderstood in this regard, and therefore these people often do not seek help for fear of judgement.

Cornerstone Woman supplies financial, legal and psychological support to sustainably help victims heal after trauma. Trauma can include the effects of intimate partner violence, criminality, addiction and many other issues affecting families.

The organisation’s family-centred approach incorporates the whole family unit in the healing process to enable a new start for all the parties involved.

Le Roux says: “We don’t want to be an organisation that encourages the breakdown of a family. We would rather be the organisation that puts families back together, and holds families together.”

Le Roux and her team, consisting of men and women who have been in abusive situations or witnessed them first-hand, have structured the organisation to openly accept potential victims who, in many cases, may be too afraid to reach out.

A risk analysis is completed and those in danger are helped to a place of safety when necessary. Thereafter, an interview is conducted, which professional counsellors and mentors use to inform an individual support programme according to the immediate and long-term needs of the person and their family.

Le Roux describes domestic abuse as an issue not confined to a particular race, gender or income group — it is a people problem.

She wishes to empower families to grow and heal together, as her family was able to with her. When asked what her proudest achievement is, Le Roux says it is changing the lives of women who have experienced domestic violence, and being a mother to her three children.

Simon Dey |
Nthabi Montsho-Mngoma

Nthabi Montsho-Mngoma

NthabiM Coaching and Training
Feminist leadership
Duke Institute

Nthabiseng Montsho-Mngoma is on a mission to empower South Africa’s women, especially the vast number of women who have experienced, or are trying to overcome, gender-based and intimate partner violence.

Her organisation, NthabiM Coaching and Training, along with its subsidiaries, Lesedi Life Skills and My Safe Space, provide a wide range of services that aim to equip women with skills that help them to build fruitful and joy-filled lives that insulate them as much as possible from future violence.

Montsho-Mngoma, like many of the women she works with to help, is a survivor of intimate partner assault and has faced the terrifying near-death realities of gender-based violence. She has first-hand experience of the way the state, courts, police and society in general fail women in violent and vulnerable situations.

Recognising that these institutions are inadequately assisting women, her organisations seek to provide a holistic path to empowerment for those who find themselves in these situations.

The services her organisations provide include facilitation of post-traumatic healing; self-mastery skills training; exploration of personal purpose; practical skills training; entrepreneurship; financial education in partnership with Old Mutual; life skills training through Lesedi Life Skills; business start-up facilitation; and networking and social outings for morale and relationship building.

Through this extensive and all-inclusive approach to empowering women, Montsho-Mngoma hopes to not only give women physical and financial support, but also the social and emotional means to rebuild a happy and fulfilled life.

Montsho-Mngoma feels that although there is no best way to deal with gender-based violence, we need to fix the multiple broken or ineffective institutions that refuse to punish perpetrators or protect survivors.

On an individual level, she believes in bolstering women through self-defence, economic empowerment and gender equality, as well as community interventions intended to save women from dangerous situations.

One of her proudest moments has been her inclusion in the Zanele Mbeki Fellowship. This came at a time when she really needed the encouragement and opportunity to see her own value and to feel empowered again after her emergence from trauma. It allowed her to see the possibility of healing through building oneself up and goal attainment. This is a principle she is actively applying in her work.

Montsho-Mngoma’s advice to young women who may look up to her is, firstly,

“be good to yourself”.

To her, this includes nurturing, developing, being kind to, honouring, respecting and loving yourself.

Through these actions, she believes that you will attract the things you want and need while having the wherewithal to reject the things that don’t serve your progress and happiness.

Her second piece of advice is to always be conscious of yourself and your surroundings and to always trust your gut instincts. As many of us know, trusting your gut is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe.

Anita Makgetla |
Nompumelelo Zenda

Nompumelelo Zenda

Obstetrician-gynecologist-sexologist and founder
Obstetrician-gynaecologist (FCOGSA), medical sexologist (FECSM)
University of the Witwatersrand, European Committee of Sexual Medicine

Nompumelelo Zenda has always been passionate about women’s health, but it was especially during her pregnancy that she realised the need for safe spaces where women could feel seen and heard — and not dismissed or unattended to — while going through the vulnerable and confusing stages of pregnancy.

Fuelled by this insight and determined to make a positive impact on women’s lives, Zenda founded WeSeeYou, a health and information consultancy based in Johannesburg that seeks to provide sexual and reproductive health and wellness solutions.

Zenda strives to help women understand, love and work with their bodies throughout their life. Through engaging educational videos and posts, Dr Gynae, as Zenda is also known, informs her audience on all things female — from vaginal health and sexual intimacy to pregnancy and menopause.

“Since embarking on educating women about sexual health online, I’ve learnt how hungry people are for credible information. It has taught me that it matters as a clinician that I create a safe space and make my clients and audience feel seen and heard,” she says.

Her online content was nominated for a DStv Content Creator Award within its Cause Award category.

“It’s an honour to be able to create content around women’s health, talk about sex education and demystify topics that we all received so little education about,” she says.

Apart from her online content, Zenda’s reach extends to television and radio interviews, live social media talks, content writing and public speaking.

After obtaining her MD in medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Zenda went on to study at the ESSM School of Sexual Medicine in Budapest in 2018. Thereafter, she qualified as a medical sexologist at the Fellow of the European Committee of Sexual Medicine in 2020.

“Receiving the sexology fellowship was definitely one of my proudest career moments,” she says.

Zenda, who is a member of the International Society of Sexual Medicine, says that she dreams of one day changing South Africa for the better, starting by aligning the country’s policies with tangible delivery of accessible and safe women’s healthcare throughout their lives.

She says she would like to focus on celebrating girls’ menstrual debut, eradicating teen pregnancies and maternal deaths, improving the experience of pregnancy for all women and encouraging women to prioritise their own sexual health and pleasure.

“Every woman deserves to feel great about themselves, At WeSeeYou, we believe that the well-being of women makes our families, communities and the world go well too.”

Luca Hart |
Mzikazi Nduna

Mzikazi Nduna

Dean of health sciences
University of Fort Hare
PhD in public health
University of the Witwatersrand

The culmination of more than 20 years of teaching and learning has led Mzikazi Nduna to be appointed the new dean of the faculty of health sciences at the University of Fort Hare in Alice in the Eastern Cape.

Nduna began her career as a high school teacher in 1995, when South Africa’s national education system was going through many changes. The introduction of life orientation to replace career guidance stirred an interest in the young teacher to promote healthy sexuality and safer sexual behaviour.

Prior to taking up the position of dean, Nduna was the head of the School of Human and Community Development at the University of the Witwatersrand. There, she started and led a research group focused on fatherhood in South Africa, Father (Dis)connections, also known as FACT.

“We realised that there are different ways in which fathers are absent and different ways that people are connected and disconnected from their fathers,” she explains.

FACT’s research had a strong advocacy component, presenting at conferences and participating in policy conversations. One of FACT’s victories was advocating for fathers’ names to be mandatory on birth certificates.

“For us to take fathers seriously as parents, it needs to start from the day the child is born, the father’s name should be there. It saves the mother and the child later on [if] trying to find the father or going to home affairs,” she says.

“Leadership challenged me. I learned the value of communication and using policy for health advocacy. I am certainly a better leader today because of the advice and support from mentors.”

Professor Rachel Jewkes was one of those mentors, Nduna says. “[Jewkes] sparked the belief in me that we need more women in science — she continues to be my mentor,” Nduna explains.

Aspiring academics, Jewkes and Nduna met while working for the Medical Research Council in the early 2000s. Along with other researchers, they collaborated on the council’s Stepping Stones project — a group intervention aimed at sexual behavioural changes across communities in the Eastern Cape.

“The country had learned a lot about HIV through the A-B-C approach — abstain, be faithful, condomise. But for it to be effective, social norms should support it. We needed to interrogate our assumptions about young people and see if traditions and cultures supported A-B-C,” she says.

Rather than inviting a guest speaker and filling up a school hall for a once-off talk, Stepping Stones was a three-month-long project that engaged people throughout. “With this approach, you see the course through with the participants and there is accountability,” Nduna says.

Her proudest achievement? “Successfully running three separate research projects that supported early career academics and postgraduate students who today are PhD holders and professors in their own right. I am proud to know that I contributed to the development of the current and next generation of researchers, most of whom are black, African and women.”

Nabeel Allie |
Candice Chirwa

Candice Chirwa

Founder and director, menstrual activist, academic
Bachelor of arts (international relations & political studies); bachelor of arts honours (international relations); master’s of arts (international relations); PhD in progress (development studies)
University of the Witwatersrand

Affectionately known as the Minister of Menstruation, Candice Chirwa’s proudest achievement to date has been her work in changing the disempowering narrative surrounding periods.

“I believe that reshaping how periods are seen — in a positive light — and having the opportunity to give girls and women who menstruate the ability to be empowered has and continues to be my proudest achievement,”

she says.

The South Africa-based menstruation activist and academic is the founder of Qrate, a non-governmental organisation that seeks to educate young people by outlining some of the difficulties that are encountered and endured by women and girls.

“I am extremely proud of the work that Qrate has done for communities in providing menstrual education,” she continues.

Although absenteeism due to period poverty is unproven in South Africa, it is widely acknowledged that girls miss school due to their periods, which is one of the challenges Chirwa aims to educate children, parents, guardians, guidance staff and teachers about.

The 26-year-old is also a published author, having written Perils of Patriarchy and co-authored Flow: The Book About Menstruation. Chirwa is a University of the Witwatersrand master’s graduate and is in the process of completing her PhD in development studies.

She says that becoming an advocate for menstrual and period education has been a journey filled with doubt, which has made her learn that doing what one loves will not always be easy.

“I have had days when it’s been really hard and I wanted to give up the role of providing menstrual education and awareness, but I always remain grounded by the fact that I’m doing what I love. I have taken the days of doubt and embraced them as signs of growth and renewal,” she says.

Chirwa notes that she often recalls a conversation with her mother in which she was encouraged to pursue her passion in life. However, along the way her passion has been put into doubt when people have disputed the importance of the work she does.

“I would even go so far as to highlight my academia experience where I was informed by the head of department to drop out as he believed that menstrual health was not relevant enough. That moment will always remain with me.”

Chirwa’s master’s research focused on process tracing men’s perspectives on menstruation in order to understand the true nature of period stigma and taboos.

“I still stand by my mom’s dedication to passion. To further drive my commitment, I am reminded by Rumi’s words: “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.”
If Chirwa could achieve one thing for South Africa it would be to make paid period leave a reality. Disorders such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome are debilitating and excruciating, and they both cause menstrual problems, which can lead to heavy bleeding, making it difficult for women to carry out daily tasks.

“Menstruators deserve to take the time off from work when their period symptoms (cramps in particular) are severe,” she says. “Paid period leave is not a new concept. Japan was the first country to implement this policy in 1920. I’d like to see that [here] in my lifetime,” she says.

“Let’s change the world one period at a time.”

Anathi Madubela |