Sisters are doing it for themselves – and for the rest of us too. South Africa is brimming with inspiring young women who are changing the world for the better and chasing their dreams at the same time.
Let’s celebrate just a few of them here, for Women’s Month, and the remarkable difference they are making in our country.
Kgomotso Mokoena is an attorney, and a law lecturer at the University of Johannesburg. During her career, she has worked with some of the biggest names of our legal fraternity, including the current Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court, Mogoeng Mogoeng, and the late former Chief Justice of South Africa, Arthur Chaskalson. She is an African Leadership fellow, and received the 2014 Inyathelo Youth in Philanthropy Award for her work with the Spread Luv movement. Kgomotso co-founded Spread Luv in 2009. The non-profit organisation works with experienced professionals to provide career guidance and development for disadvantaged youth in a bid to improve our woeful unemployment stats and change lives.
Rebecca Franks is a woman pioneer in a profession that tends to be a total boys’ club – app development. Earlier this year, senior android developer Rebecca received the 'Google developer expert' title, recognising her knowledge of and contribution to the Android app ecosystem. According to the Mail & Guardian profile of her – she was included in their 2016 200 Young South Africans list – she is the first developer in Johannesburg to earn this title, and the first woman in Africa to boot! Rebecca graduated from the University of Johannesburg in 2011, but in her five short working years, she’s already developed a reputation for her solid dev work, and for her work with literacy-focused non-profit organisation Book Dash.
What a year for theatre maker Jade Bowers! Not only is she the Standard Bank Young Artist for Theatre for 2016, but the Office of the Presidency named and paid tribute to her as one of the country's young achievers at the 2016 national Youth Day Celebrations. Last week, Jade’s latest play – Scorched – opened in Johannesburg, following its debut (and enthusiastic public and critical reception) at the National Arts Festival this year. In 2014 AfriPOP magazine named Jade one of their 'Top Five Female Theatre Makers in South Africa', and she’s got both Ovation Awards and Naledi nominations under her belt. When she’s not debuting challenging new plays, Jade works at UJ Arts & Culture and runs her own production company, Jade Bowers Design & Management.
With just days to go before the 2016 Rio Olympics kick off, there’s a lot of inspiration to be found in our national sports stars, and in the athletics icon-in-the-making Caster Semenya in particular. Having endured doping accusations and speculation about her gender, been investigated by international sporting bodies, had her medals briefly taken away and reinstated – all as part of the nastiest case of body-snarking in recent memory – Caster has emerged with dignity, and seems just as determined to run her own race and collect medals as ever. This year she was included in the 21 Icons third series, celebrating the country’s inspiring youth leaders, and she is a favourite to bring home gold for the women’s 800 metre event in Rio.
Entrepreneur Katleho Tsoku is not afraid to talk about her 'failures', in particular a restaurant she started and closed down in 44 Stanley a few years ago. Instead of feeling defeated by this experience, Katleho turned her experience into lessons for herself – and now for the next generation of budding entrepreneurs. She is now the CEO of Spark* South Africa (part of Spark* International Group), an incubator and startup supporter. Last year, Katleho launched SHE by Spark*, an accelerator programme that empowers women entrepreneurs.
As one member of the trio who founded Hello Pretty, Samantha Marx has a lot to be proud of. This hugely popular online store is a platform for local creatives and designers who list and sell their own handmade wares via the site – with over 24 000 products currently listed. An article on CNN recently called the site a rival to global platform Etsy. Not bad for a self-taught web developer who was inspired by her own love of shopping and local design.