National Women's Day August 2021

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9 August 2021


Breaking down the stigmas, shame and silos that hold women back

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his year’s theme for National Women’s Day, celebrated on 9 August, takes its lead from the United Nations campaign around Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future. There is a new breed of women and girls – all around the world – speaking out for the first time against the stigmas, shame and continued exclusion and boxing-in of women in various pockets within our communities.

Picasso Headline, a proud division of Arena Holdings (Pty) Ltd Hill on Empire, 16 Empire Road (cnr Hillside Road), Parktown, Johannesburg, 2193 Postal Address: PO Box 12500, Mill Street, Cape Town, 8010 EDITORIAL Content Manager: Raina Julies Contributors: Sandy Bukula, Candice Chirwa, Ryland Fisher, Denise Mhlanga, Mandisa Monakali, Parmi Natesan, Monica Newton, Thando Pato, Nyiko Shiburi, Carla Watson Copy Editor: Brenda Bryden Content Co-ordinator: Vanessa Payne Digital Editor: Stacey Visser

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ON THE COVER: Clockwise from top left: Candice Chirwa, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Parmi Natesan, Mandisa Monakali, Monica Newton

PROFILE Ryland Fisher talks to outgoing executive director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, about women’s struggles against inequality and gender-based violence



In this issue of National Women’s Day, we talk to women who have, for years, been at the forefront of reshaping our future. We also touch base with some new-breed activists engaging in difficult conversations as we begin to really break down silos and amplify women’s voices around issues pertaining to our reproductive health and why our participation at boardroom and executive levels matters.

14 COMMUNITY CHALLENGES How South African women in rural and township communities are fighting for an equal future amid the fallout from COVID-19

15 COMMUNITY ACTIVISM Sandy Bukula of Operation Hunger tells us that fighting for food security must become a collective effort; Candice Chirwa talks about the stigma surrounding women’s reproductive health

Institute of Directors in South Africa CEO Parmi Natesan shares why the under-representation of women at board and executive levels undermines women’s rights


ENTREPRENEURSHIP What specific challenges do women face in owning and funding their businesses?


ARTS Monica Newton, CEO of the National Arts Festival, talks about women driving change through the arts

10 GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE Ilitha Labantu’s Mandisa Monakali shares what South African women and communities should be doing to fight against GBV

12 EDUCATION The education of women and girls is neither prioritised or highly valued, yet investing in female education is key to driving social change

13 CORPORATE ACTIVISM DSTV’s #StandingagainstGBV initiative shows why it is important for corporates to get involved in and support community-based programmes working within the GBV space

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FOCUS ON WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP A PRIORITY The Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership is committed to supporting gender transformation and maintaining a focus on research around Women in Leadership. By Prof Peliwe Mnguni Associate Professor - Leadership & Organisation Dynamics, Unisa SBL


ender transformation even class in both corporate continues to be a societal and public sector organisations and organisational in the country. The toll of fighting challenge in South Africa these challenges often results and globally. Progressive in some women stepping out government and organisational of their senior leadership roles, policies have to date only had while others decline leadership marginal impact on gender opportunities for which they are representativity at senior levels more than qualified. Prof Peliwe Mnguni of leadership, particularly in The Unisa Graduate School corporate South Africa. Aspiring of Business Leadership (SBL) female leaders continue to face takes gender transformation discrimination based on gender, race and seriously and focuses on keeping the issue of women in leadership alive. The SBL’s annual Women in Leadership Conversation series is an integral part of this focus. The event provides women from a cross-section of sectors, industries and organisational levels with the opportunity to share their stories and experiences and learn from each other.

The Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL) takes gender transformation seriously and focuses on keeping the issue of women in leadership alive.

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Such interaction helps drive change and keeps the conversation around women in leadership alive. This year’s conversation – which takes place on 21 August under the theme, “Leading Women: These are some of the things that excite/bother me about gender transformation discourse and practice in South African organisations” – is bound to stimulate robust dialogue and critical reflection on both successes and challenges. Despite calls for a moratorium on research around women in leadership from those claiming that the topic has been exhausted, the SBL continues to prioritise this research. Focus areas include responsible leadership in practice, sustainable livelihoods, intra-Africa trade and investment, digital transformation and investment, and executive education.

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For more information: Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL) UnisaSBL Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL)

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka


Former South African deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka ends her eight-year term as United Nations under-secretary-general and executive director of UN Women this month (August) and can’t wait to return to South Africa to contribute to the struggle against gender inequality and gender-based violence. By RYLAND FISHER



peaking from her UN office in New York, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said she was leaving UN Women in a much stronger state than when she started. “We were a $350-million organisation when I joined. Right now, the organisation has raised $40-billion.” The money will go to member states, civil society and the youth, and will be prioritised for campaigns that address areas fundamental to women’s equality. The $40-billion – made up of donations from member states, corporates and civil society – was announced at the recent Generation Equality Forum in Paris. Mlambo-Ngcuka said she was “hopeful” about the efforts South Africa was putting into the struggle to promote women’s rights. “At the recent conference in Paris – 25 years after the historic Beijing Declaration – South Africa focused on economic justice, financial inclusion and increasing procurement for women and was mobilising and lobbying countries all over Africa. “South Africa focused on young people, making sure they can access economic activities, and on ending gender-based violence. “The country was very strong on innovation and technology and the need to propel women to be much better represented and active in innovation and technology. “We all have to make sure that we support South Africa’s efforts. I can’t wait to come back so that we live up to the expectations.”

HARD-KNOCK LIFE FOR WOMEN AND THE YOUTH Mlambo-Ngcuka said that women throughout the world were the worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Two-thirds of the jobs lost during the pandemic were lost by women. Many of these women had an informal employer or were informal employers themselves. We have also seen the impact on women who are in sectors such as tourism, which has been hit the hardest by the pandemic. “Many of the women do not have contracts, so they do not have rights in those jobs. They are the first to go when there is a crisis. Women will take the longest time to recover unless we intervene more aggressively and address the situation.” Violence against women also increased significantly from the start of the pandemic. “Within a week of the pandemic starting, we were hearing from our colleagues internationally who were getting messages from the police stations about the increase in case reports involving violence against women. The increase was as high as 30 to 50 per cent in some countries.” Women were also affected by an increased burden of care, said Mlambo-Ngcuka. “Many people could not go to hospital. In most countries, those patients stayed at home and needed someone to look after them. It is the women and girls who did this job. The burden of care increased significantly.” The role of young people in a country such as South Africa was crucial, she said. “We have to allow them to be as angry as they need because radical impatience among young people can encourage change and policies. We should encourage them because they don’t make demands without putting in the work that is needed.

“It is about working collaboratively and their advocacy is important for us to move forward. Their engagement and participation are always going to be critical.” Mlambo-Ngcuka said that there is gender-based violence all over the world, but in South Africa it was particularly serious. South Africa’s colonial past saw violence being used as a tool of power and governance to repress and control black people, and the apartheid government used violence to gain and maintain social, economic and political control. With this legitimised and institutionalised form of social, economic and political control, “our country has found it difficult to overcome its violent history”. “We have to ensure that we have a stronger way of dealing with violence against women. We should not allow men to get away with gender-based violence. We need to instil the right values among men.” In 2015, Mlambo-Ngcuka chaired a UN Women event where she outlined why including men in the conversation around ending gender-based violence was critical: “Given their currently enhanced status in societies around the world, men are often ‘pen holders’, holding the majority of positions as heads of state, CEOs, religious leaders and other prominent positions. A man must say, ‘I will not marry a child. I will not beat up a woman, I will not accept a paycheque higher than my female counterpart.’ Then we’re talking. That’s what we’re calling for.” Mlambo-Ngcuka’s sentiments have not changed since then, adding now that we need to engage boys in this gender conversation. “We need men to be engaged, and we have to start early. We are now pushing the engagement of men and boys in the struggle for gender equality. “The future is going to require men and women to work together.”

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IN CORPORATE LEADERSHIP ROLES MATTERS The under-representation of women at board and executive levels undermines women’s rights to participate in decision-making and creating a sustainable future. By PARMI NATESAN, CEO, Institute of Directors in South Africa


t is well known that diverse teams make better decisions. The link between diversity and revenue derived from innovation is particularly compelling in the current business environment. We, therefore, need our corporate boardrooms to be better representative of the country as a whole, and specifically of the shifting stakeholder profile for business. Gender parity in South African boardrooms makes business sense. According to the University of Stellenbosch Business School’s report, Women on South African Boards – facts, fiction and forward thinking, women represent 45 per cent of the working population, yet only 20.7 per cent of the board members on JSE-listed companies. A significant number of JSE-listed companies do not even have a single female director. When it comes to executive teams, according to a PwC Executive Directors’ report, the statistics are less impressive: only 14 per cent of CEOs, CFOs and executive directors of JSE-listed companies are female. State-owned enterprises fare better than the private sector, with 42 per cent of all directors being female. The ongoing under-representation of women on boards and executive teams is curious given that gender diversity is now a requirement in terms of JSE regulations,

Parmi Natesan

a King IV recommendation, and is widely accepted as leading to better business outcomes. Laws relating to broad-based black empowerment and employment equity have stringent requirements relating to gender ratios at various levels in the workplace. One could argue that corporates still do not fully buy into the business value of greater female participation at the highest levels. But, we must also recognise that women are sometimes still relegated to subservient roles in society – to an extent, corporates reflect the society in which they exist – and that certain misconceptions hamper the move towards better female representation. One view is that the same faces continue cropping up, meaning that efforts to improve gender representation tend to benefit a small pool of people. There is also the perception that only a small pool of directorial talent on which companies can draw exists. This is not true: there is a plethora of qualified women and the number of female graduates is rising steeply. By July 2019, 38 per cent of all chartered accountants in the country were female, and female candidate attorneys outnumbered males between 2010 and 2017.


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The Institute of Directors in South Africa has been advocating the need for a professional class of directors and we created two formal designations – chartered director and certified director. This provides the framework for would-be directors to acquire essential specialist skills and a professional code of conduct, and keep their skills updated via a formal programme of continuous education. Growing numbers of females are being awarded these director designations. A key issue is the nominations process where nomination committees tend to draw on the same pool of talent. They must develop new networks to tap into the existing abundant female directorial talent. A more proactive stance in creating succession plans and pipelines is needed – perhaps by sponsoring younger women to embark on programmes to acquire directorial skills. Companies must recognise that none of this will happen “naturally”, and the process needs to be managed. Setting targets and reporting on them is a crucial part of ensuring change. Another is creating an environment that both provides for specific female needs and is open to alternate ways of thinking and doing. In the final analysis, the drive to achieve better gender representation is unstoppable, especially once the business case becomes widely accepted. Companies that recognise this will steal a march on competitors.







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WOMEN BEATING THE ODDS Women entrepreneurs share what has helped them thrive in male-dominated industries and challenging times. By DENISE MHLANGA


n South Africa, women business owners account for less than 20 per cent, according to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2020 report. The report analyses how women in business are progressing globally, highlighting the socioeconomic factors propelling and inhibiting their success and providing a performance ranking for the 58 economies measured. South Africa is ranked 45th in the world when it comes to women-run businesses, lagging behind Uganda (39.6 per cent, Botswana (38.5 per cent) and Ghana (36.5 per cent). Globally, women entrepreneurs cite lack of funding as a major deterrent to their ability to thrive in the business world. Lack of motivation and failure were among the other challenges noted in the report.


FEMALES ARE OFTEN TREATED DIFFERENTLY Evalution Flooring director Eva Kaiser says that running a business, especially in a male-dominated industry and during COVID-19, is challenging. Kaiser currently owns two businesses: Evalution Flooring, a vinyl fl ooring company that services the commercial and residential market, and Evolve Biodegradable, which specialises in environmentally eco-friendly cleaning and personal Eva Kaiser hygiene products. She has worked in the flooring industry since 2001, so starting her own business was a natural progression. “I have to work harder than my male counterparts to achieve the same results,” she explains.

Evalution Flooring is a small business, and Kaiser says that, as the owner, she does all the presentation and delivery of samples. “It’s important to be visible and build rapport with clients.” In some cases, payment is often late, she says, and women are sometimes treated differently from men. “However, some of my male counterparts are a pleasure to work with and we share wisdom often. They appreciate my expertise. These kinds of relationships will enable women-owned businesses to thrive.” Kaiser says that when women are treated as equals and respected it makes for a equitable business environment.

STARTING A NEW BUSINESS DURING THE PANDEMIC While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to close, others found new opportunities to tap into, according to the Mastercard Index report. Prudence Mabaso, an experienced industrial engineer and metallurgist, started the Kitchen Wrap Company four months ago and employs two people. She launched the business drawing on her previous experience and skills as a small business manager at a home improvement and interior decor enterprise. “As far as I know, I am the only woman in South Africa offering this service, and it’s a fairly new industry.” The company specialises in renovating and upgrading kitchens, but without new cupboard installation. “Our service saves money and the only challenge is keeping up with demand,” she says.

“I believe if women are treated fairly in any industry, their businesses will succeed.” – Prudence Mabaso

Mabaso has built a strong network with males in the industry and says that this has been benefi cial. “My male counterparts are helpful; we call each other for advice and the support so far has been tremendous. I believe if women are treated fairly in any industry, their businesses will succeed.” The Kitchen Wrap Company is experiencing rapid growth, thanks to affordability and word of mouth, which has proved to be a powerful marketing tool. She says it is liberating to see women holding tools and taking out cabinets, jobs that are mostly done by men. “I’m excited about the future growth of the business and empowering more women,” says Mabaso. The Mastercard Index report also found that the health crisis has stirred a drastic shift in mindset and attitude to make the world a safer and environmentally friendlier place to live in. Kaiser, who is passionate about the environment, launched Evolve Biodegradable in November 2020. “From the Evalution Flooring perspective, we have had to relook at our strategy to remain operational as our business has always been mainly corporate. In 2020, we changed our focus to more residential and smaller type projects.” She says their corporate business is still on hold for the most part while the new decor range of vinyl fl ooring is gaining traction from interior designers and decorators. “The business is in a better place than it was in 2020, however, it’s not close to where it needs to be fi nancially,” adds Kaiser.

Prudence Mabaso

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A LEADER WHO LOVES CHALLENGES FELLENG YENDE, CEO of the Fibre, Processing and Manufacturing SETA, says her professional goals are to innovate, inspire and lead with integrity



fearless risk-taker, Felleng Yende has never shied away from a challenge. When the Department of Higher Education and Training clustered 13 sectors into one in 2011 to form the Fibre, Processing and Manufacturing (FP&M) SETA, Yende joined as CEO and has cemented its reputation as a credible partner in the fibre processing, manufacturing and skills development value chain. “I love nothing more than a huge challenge and figuring out how to deliver what is being asked of me in the most exciting way possible,” says Yende. Her strategic skills development business model paved the way for a complete turnaround and streamlining of the SETA’s operations and processes. This has resulted in a best practice organisation that meets and exceeds organisational objectives and performance standards, helping the organisation to move from a performance of 49 per cent in 2011 to 100 per cent in 2021. The SETA also has achieved five unqualified and clean audit outcomes during the past seven years.

Felleng Yende

The FP&M SETA has supported a number of small, micro and medium enterprises and other skills development providers, including public training institutions, to manufacture masks through its garment construction projects.

As the winner of many awards, including Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government in 2015 and the 2019 Most Outstanding SETA Gold Award for the organisation’s performance against set targets, governance, compliance, management and corporate services.

GENERATION OF FEMALE LEADERS Yende is passionate and committed to ensuring that she nurtures a new generation of female leaders by lending professional support to other women and promoting the overall welfare of underprivileged women. “What drives me is my profound belief that education, particularly skills development, heals our soul,” she says. Under her stewardship many unemployed learners have completed their training in garment construction and coffin-making and have been employed, while others have been assisted in establishing co-operatives.

YENDE’S ADVICE TO A NEW GENERATION OF WOMEN LEADERS Yende inspires and has earned the respect of her staff and others in the industry through her work ethic, generosity and ability to bring fresh, innovative ideas to the skills development sector.

EQUIPPING A NEW GENERATION OF EMPLOYEES Since she took over as CEO, more than 142 000 individuals have encountered FP&M SETA during their career journey. Among these are 84 000 learners who entered the FP&M SETA’s occupationally directed programmes and about 57 000 learners who have successfully completed occupational qualifications. By equipping a new generation of employees with the skills and values that are helping to shape the future of the nation, this SETA is empowering workers to take control of their future and be a force for positive change. Instead of taking credit, Yende believes the honour belongs to the workers, who embody the FP&M SETA spirit of servant leadership – a leadership philosophy in which the main goal of the leader is to serve others. “The FP&M SETA has developed me into a leader who is prepared to fight for all the social issues in our communities. It has improved both my confidence and commitment to my country,” she says.

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Be you. Be curious. Be confident. Be flexible. Be patient. Work smart, work hard and act like an owner, no matter what your role. Listen, ask questions and don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn from some of the most creative people around you. Use every opportunity offered. If it is difficult, find a way. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and to express your observations and opinions. Learn as much as you can as fast as you can. Improve yourself and, in turn, you will improve your own industry. Be ready to fail and succeed, and never stop learning.

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Under her leadership, the organisation has maintained a culture of good corporate governance through the development and implementation of approved policies and procedures, emphasising that robust and effective monitoring and evaluation is critical for performance and financial stability.

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AnotherKind – stills image from Amy Louise Wilson’s work of the same name.

MONICA NEWTON, CEO of the National Arts Festival, discusses the changes in the arts arena and their impact on female artists and how women are helping to drive social change



he past 18 months have changed all of us in different ways. The pandemic has had a cataclysmic impact on artists across the globe. In South Africa, the months of lockdown have seen a litany of losses: income, colleagues, audiences and platforms. Women artists, in particular, have been forced to sacrifice their creative space, both physically and emotionally, to cope with the added pressure of being a full-time teacher or primary caregiver. Those with no other means of sustaining themselves have lost their homes and cars, and the instruments they use to create their art. The arts are fundamentally undervalued in South Africa. Urgent advocacy and action are needed to professionalise the sector so that artists, technicians and other creatives are not left holding out their begging bowls, but are given the space and support to continue driving the social change that our country needs desperately. Part of the solution is to provide the spaces to make and show work.

global festivals. The 2020 National Arts Festival saw productions being picked up for future Edinburgh festivals, the Brighton Fringe and Broadway.



When lockdown was first announced, the National Arts Festival was well into preparations for the live 2020 National Arts Festival. We had two choices: mothball the festival and wait for a return to “normal” or adapt and evolve, relying on technology and the resilience and flexibility of the women-led festival team. It has been an extraordinary effort, but we did everything possible to become a meeting place for artists and audiences. So, the 2020 and now the 2021 festivals have gone online. Has it been the same as live work? Definitely not. However, some things that don’t happen in the finite time-bound theatre, can be achieved online. We are reaching audiences that would not have travelled long distances or across continents to visit the festival, and we are able to give artists direct voice and agency. Thanks to the digital space, artists are being seen and receiving offers from other

Women artists are exploring the digital space to find a voice and, hopefully, inspiration. In 2020, Buhle Ngaba’s beautifully filmed Swan Song probed grief and Mamela Nyamza’s Pest Control highlighted the plight of artists, while Slindile Mthembu’s IGAMA examined the structural disadvantages inherent in our society. Amy Louise Wilson, the 2020 Distell National Playwright award winner, played with layers of scriptwriting, art direction, music and digital design to rearrange and reimagine her “lost” stage play AnotherKind, and 2020 Standard Bank Young Artist Lulu Mlangeni’s piece Kganya was a loud call to action to free ourselves from an absurd moment and step boldly into the light. The Fringe, the festival’s independent programme that enables artists of all levels of skill, exposure and genre to present work at the festival, has been given a digital home, from

Slindile Mthembu’s IGAMA

Monica Newton

where artists can leverage a direct relationship with their audience and the potential to maximise profits in an infinite market. Women artists are most actively using this space to address women’s issues and broader social and political challenges. The online arts following is still minute compared to the global reach of Netflix or Amazon, but it has a niche audience. As the festival and the South African arts community refine and test the online model, it will become an important part of the arts ecosystem, particularly as the technology and arts practice evolves to include more accessible tools such as virtual reality. Whether for urgency, grief, introspection or action, the online space will continue to be a place for artists to effect social change and provide audiences with an experience that enlightens, enlivens and inspires.


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TAKE A STAND, TAKE ACTION MANDISA MONAKALI, founder and president of Ilitha Labantu, shares what South African women and communities should be doing to join the fight against GBV


hile South Africa’s democratic constitution is hailed as one of the world’s most progressive constitutions with laws and legislation that serve to protect the rights of women and children, it is perplexing that the country has a monstrous record of gross human rights violations against women, painting a grim picture of a society at war with its women. These atrocities occur despite South Africa’s “progressive” laws. Such acts of gender-based violence (GBV) are deeply rooted in South Africa’s colonial and apartheid pasty and the patriarchy, misogyny and toxic masculinity that permeates society irrespective of race, class, religion, culture, geography, or background.

WE NEED ACTION To fully realise women’s rights and resolve the challenges they face, we need a greater sense of unity and transformative measures that seek to address the structural causes of gender inequality at national, local and household levels. This requires more stringent measures to help curb the rate of violence against women, an improvement in the prosecution rate of Mandisa Monakali perpetrators of abuse


and the enforcement of a more responsive social protection system, as well as access to long-term and sustainable economic opportunities for the empowerment of women. Robust action based on a proactive strategy must be taken by government in collaboration with the private sector to help restore the livelihoods lost during the COVID-19 pandemic and address GBV. The high incident rate of violence against women and children should be a wake-up call that the nation needs to apply more innovative strategies to help change the entrenched behaviour of men. There is a great need for a mass public awareness campaign to comprehensively engage and educate all sectors of society around GBV and its roots in gender inequalities. Through education, society can unlearn the negative gender stereotypes that contribute to the discrimination and abuse of women, children and vulnerable groups. Men also need to play a more active role in the fight against GBV. Women alone cannot win this fight, it requires men’s active engagement in dismantling the toxic patriarchal power structures that exist in all spheres of society. While not all men are perpetrators of violence, it is the silence of male bystanders that helps to


normalise the abuse of women – men need to hold each other accountable for their actions. Far too often the support for the women’s movement has been reserved solely for Women’s Month or the annual 16 Days of No Violence against Women and Children campaign. However, the support for the plight of women should be all year round. Strategic sectors within our society need to pledge their commitment towards ending GBV and empowering women and girls throughout the year by providing women and girls with resources and services. South Africa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic indicates that the nation can unite, even in its diversity, to make society a better place for all. Let us all come together and commit to a higher level of action to end gender-based violence – no one is exempt from taking action.

The high incident rate of violence against women and children should be a wake-up call that the nation needs to apply more innovative strategies to help change the entrenched behaviour of men.


Ilitha Labantu

Ilitha Labantu is a nonprofit organisation providing free counselling services, legal support, training, education and empowerment programmes to women and children survivors of abuse in the townships and rural communities of the Western Cape region. Realising that domestic violence and abuse pose a significant threat to the development of women and children in townships, abuse survivor Mandisa Monakali established Ilitha Labantu in 1989. She says: “When I founded the organisation, it was the first of its kind to offer the specialised services in the black townships of the Western Cape. Women in the townships had little hope of leaving abusive situations due to the distant location of places where services and help are offered. This, together with a language barrier (most of the organisations in the more affluent communities spoke Afrikaans or English), and the need to pay for the services, deterred women.” Ilitha Labantu’s services are free and accessible to women, children and those affected by abuse.

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The WELA Team From left: Nicole Truter (Project Coordinator), Professor Ann Lourens (Project Manager), Mieshkah Dolley-Ryneveld (Project Supporter).

Sanelisiwe Jabane - WELA Inspirational Woman

WELA at the

forefront of change

The Women in Engineering Leadership Association is one of five projects initiated and managed by the merSETA Chair in Engineering Development. It is committed to the development of women and facilitating transformation in the sector


he Women in Engineering Leadership Association (WELA) Wela, was founded in 2012 to support female students in the School of Engineering at the Nelson Mandela University to enhance their academic experience and assist them in completing their studies. WELA fulfils the university’s mandate of being of service to society through its focus on the academic, professional and personal development of women in engineering. This includes various developmental workshops, outreach, guest lecturers, academic support, meetings and gatherings, and a mentorship programme where senior WELA members are trained to mentor junior WELA members. WELA is managed by Professor Ann Lourens, head of the Industrial Engineering department, along with project co-ordinator Nicole Truter. “WELA strives to create a culture of inclusion, equality and innovation,” says Lourens. “Our female engineering students and practising female engineers’ needs are met through the designed programmes and workshops, which complement their acquired academic skills.”


EVENTS, WORKSHOPS AND PROMOTIONS “Engaged engineering means taking responsibility for fostering a sense of leadership that is centred around innovation, change and forward-thinking,” Lourens explains. “It means that we focus on the development and support of women operating in traditionally male-dominated environments and create opportunities to grow female engineers and attract more females to the field.” Over the past 12 months, WELA has continued to present online events and workshops to members to enhance their

self-confidence and ability and improve female student retention rates. These events and workshops included: • Mentorship meetings and activities • International Women Engineering Day celebration • True colours workshop • Team building and Ubuntu workshops • Wellness and strength assessment workshops • Unleashing the brain potential webinar in collaboration with Emthonjeni Student Wellness • Choices of a successful woman webinar • Forgiveness workshop webinar • Emotional intelligence webinar In 2020, WELA developed an animated promotional video for school learners promoting engineering as a study and career opportunity for girls. The association is also compiling members’ stories into a storybook for primary school learners to encourage and educate them about the role of women in engineering. Throughout the lockdown, WELA and the Learning and Teaching Collaboration Cluster at the university, under the guidance of Ronelle Plaatjes, provided academic and emotional support to the WELA students. The association also designed the ninth edition of the Inspirational Women and Inspirational Students publication that introduces new WELA members to readers. The publication is distributed at marketing events and in the manufacturing industry. Due to the pandemic, the 10th edition was distributed electronically, and some of the featured new members profiles were posted to the associations social media platforms. The association also offers an Early Career Development programme for both women and men working in the science, technology,

engineering and production (STEP) field. This programme features a workshop series focusing on leadership styles, inclusivity, diversity and teamwork. Participants are also provided with practical production line training. WELA continues to grow and evolve and aims to be at the forefront of gender mainstreaming within the science, technology and engineering fields. Ready to change the world? Use these links to explore the study possibilities and to learn more about the Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology. Getting to know the Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology Faculty of Engineering, the Built Environment and Technology’s Website iDEATE Publication documents/IDEATE/EBET_iDEATE_Vol_1_ March_2021-(DIGITAL-2).pdf Study Programmes Undergraduate-Programmes Online Application Application/Apply-Undergraduate WELA Presentation

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SUPPORTED EDUCATION OF GIRLS AND WOMEN Educating girls and women is often undervalued, yet it is becoming critical to ensure social change, writes CARLA WATSON, head of Graduate Teaching at the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship


ocial change can be described as a wicked problem: so complex that its leadership begs resolution and demands vision, courage and commitment to excellence. Education in South Africa is also a wicked problem: historically used as a tool to oppress and now as a tool for encouraging social change and transformation. Today, South Africa carries the inherited educational systems of oppression; aiming to liberate and encourage critical thinking to build its society. The role and influence of girls and women in positions Carla Watson of leadership driving social change are often undervalued. At a school level, the Department of Basic Education’s 2019 report indicated more girls completed matric

than their boy counterparts. However, this hopeful metric has to be considered alongside additional contexts and lived experiences. In South Africa, around 7.1 million people live with HIV/AIDS. This has the side-effect of girls and women dropping out of school to assume the role of caregivers. At a university graduate level, while women dominate studies in education, they are far outnumbered in the science, engineering and technology sector and in business and commerce by their male counterparts.

CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO Whoever first wrote the future is female was correct, but which strategies are best for the future to be effective and relevant? Researcher, educational leader and former director of Independent Schools in South Africa, Dr Jane Hofmeyr, offers these crucial strategies to girls and women: “Educate yourself to become an expert in the area of your passion. To achieve

We’ve grown up to the outdated beat of the drum of patriarchy. The education of males has been prioritised at the expense of females, but an equitable society invites the education of all. 12



Jakes Gerwel Fellowship candidate fellows

success, lead with integrity and build a strong team. Teamwork produces the best outputs.” Social change is evident in the way women leaders think: encouraging the challenge of the status quo; guided by the phrase, “yes, but why?”. As identified by the fifth Sustainable Development Goal on Gender Equity, women leaders value the challenge of the status quo; demanding agility and relevance to the contemporary needs of those they lead. In support of being relevant, Zimkhitha Peter, CEO of the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment, advises: “You are the gift to contribute to the world. Be clear about your vision for impact, break the shadows of the status quo and step into your potential. Education is a toolbox to sharpen your skills, vision and impact. Most importantly, don’t leave yourself out of your own growth. When put in charge, take charge … not just for the sake of being in charge, but also so you can courageously follow your convictions in creating impact in the service of others.” As the head of the Jakes Gerwel Fellowship (JGF) Graduate Programme, I am designing and implementing a programme that encourages critical thinking, personal reflection and asks for equity in high school teachers. The JGF recruits high-impact change-makers who will qualify as high-school teachers. The demand for agility, courage and commitment to excellence begins in our classrooms. The classroom really is the vehicle for change. For several years, I taught high school English Home Language to students for whom English was a second language, but the essence of learning and being challenged was far more important in my lessons. The focus on challenging the systemic oppression of my students, their embarking on a very unfair society, drives me. I now advocate for teaching as an aspirational career. Nothing is more powerful than those moments with 40 or more students in your class, hooked on a lesson you’re sharing. You are shifting their perspective of their lived experience, far beyond the subject content. You’re helping them aspire to something. We’ve grown up to the outdated beat of the drum of patriarchy. The education of males has been prioritised at the expense of females, but an equitable society invites the education of all. The investment in the education of girls and women is how we encourage social change.

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ender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa costs the economy between R28.4-billion and R42.4-billion annually, and is one of the most expensive public health problems globally, according to a KPMG report. When we consider that these funds could be utilised towards fuelling more thriving societies, it begs the question: has the cost of gender-based violence (both economically and socioeconomically) become too high for corporate South Africa to ignore Gender inequality is not unique to South Africa. Women globally do three times more work in the home than men, and it has only intensified due to the pandemic. Many of these women also hold full-time jobs outside of their homes. The Global Gender Gap Index 2020 ranks South Africa 17th out of 153 countries, which means that we have undergone a more positive gender-empowerment transformation than many developed nations, including Switzerland and the United States. However, South Africa still has among the highest levels of intimate partner violence. According to crime statistics released by the South African Police Services in December 2020, sexual offences reports increased by 5 per cent, with 12 218 rape cases recorded between October and December 2020. It was a 1.5 per cent increase from the third quarter of the year. Over the years, government has worked to set in place measures and remedies against GBV, but with our growing population and increase in violence, the efforts of the public sector alone are not enough to sustain ongoing campaigns.

Is the cost of gender-based violence high enough to make corporates sit up, take note and act? By NYIKO SHIBURI, CEO, MultiChoice South Africa To play its part, the MultiChoice Group launched the #StandAgainstGBV initiative last year in partnership with the Department of Social Development, People Opposing Women Abuse and the Uyinene Mrwetyana Foundation to speak out against the injustices of GBV. The partnership, which seeks to be a sustainable initiative, aims to educate and mobilise citizens to eradicate acts of violence against women and children. MultiChoice acknowledges that while it does not have the answers, it does have the platforms to show its support for the fight against GBV. “Our platforms enable us to reach the homes of millions,” says Calvo Mawela, MultiChoice Group CEO. “By using our DStv platform and partnerships with organisations that are working to protect and save women, we hope to add a powerful voice that says enough is enough.” The #StandAgainstGBV initiative took a step further in August 2020 when DStv handed the microphone over to courageous women who are taking strides towards a better tomorrow. Nongovernmental organisations, Frida Hartley Shelter, Lawyers Against Abuse and Cornerstone Woman, that help women


The costs of gender-based violence – which amount to between 0.9 per cent and 1.3 per cent of gross domestic product annually – include health, justice and other service costs, lost earnings, lost revenues, lost taxes, and second-generation costs, which are the costs of children witnessing and living with violence, such as increased juvenile and adult crime. Source: KPMG

who have been affected by GBV received one week of airtime on DStv where they could create awareness around the work they do. This coincided with a takeover of DStv’s social media channels. When it comes to GBV, the message from MultiChoice is clear: there is no place or tolerance in society for anyone and any behaviour that hurts and marginalises women. Now is the time for corporate South Africa to reinvigorate the national dialogue on GBV and help inform action among civil society.


By using our DStv platform and partnerships with organisations that are working to protect and save women, we hope to add a powerful voice that says enough is enough.


CORPORATES NEED TO JOIN THE FIGHT Enter the private sector … with its financial power and ability to mobilise resources to draw attention to the seriousness of GBV. This sector commands the respect of various stakeholders and, owing to brand credibility, has the influence to make people listen. Ultimately, raising awareness around GBV is the right thing to do and should form part of corporate responsibility because businesses do not operate in a vacuum – they are part and parcel of the communities in which they operate. In the same way that women have been driving change and contributing towards building thriving economies, so corporate South Africa needs to raise awareness around the injustices facing women.

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Sonke Gender Justice

While everyone is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, women, particularly poor women, are bearing the brunt of economic and social challenges. THANDO PATO finds out why

THE CRIPPLED INFORMAL ECONOMY In South Africa, women in rural, peri-urban and informal settlements have been hardest hit by the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19, says Vuyokazi Futshane, project offi cer for Mining and Extractives, Economic Justice Programme at Oxfam South Africa. “The pandemic has brought to the fore the intersecting inequalities of race and gender. South Africa has alarmingly high levels of both poverty and inequality. It remains one of the most unequal countries in the world – a grim reality that has been further exposed by COVID-19.” The introduction of the hard lockdown in March 2020 and subsequent ones have led to job losses, many of which affected mostly female-headed Vuyokazi Futshane households. These


The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) reported that 11 million girls around the world, from primary school to tertiary, would not return to school in 2020 due to COVID-19. UNESCO says that these girls are at risk of adolescent pregnancy, early and forced marriage, and violence.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT SONKE GENDER JUSTICE: households tend, on average, to have more dependants than male-headed households, says Futshane. She adds that the lockdowns have also had a serious impact on the informal economy. “There is a lot of focus on the effects of the lockdowns on the formal economy, but the impact on the informal economy, which is mostly made up of women, is devastating. Households are going hungry because the main breadwinner – a woman – can no longer bring home an income,” she explains. In South Africa, the informal economy ranges from domestic work to informal trading at taxi ranks, construction sites and mines, among others.

WOMEN ARE MORE VULNERABLE NOW Incidences of gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa have increased during the pandemic, as they have done globally. Patrick Godana, Eastern Cape provincial manager of Sonke Gender Justice, says that in the municipalities where his team operates, GBV incidents have escalated even though cases are still under-reported. “Women in rural areas have the additional burden of toxic gender norms imposed on them because of their circumstances. And, now during COVID-19, they are locked up 24/7 with their abusive partners who are often unemployed.

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UN Women reports that in 2020, 58 per cent of employed women worked in informal employment. During the first month of the pandemic, informal workers globally lost an average of 60 per cent of their income. UN Women estimates that a staggering 72 per cent of domestic workers around the world lost their jobs in 2020 due to lockdowns.



he socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is more acute for women than men, according to UN Women. Statistics from the UN Women From Insights to Action report show that the current pandemic will push 96 million people into extreme poverty – 47 million of those people are women and girls. The report says that 118 women aged between 25 and 34 will experience extreme poverty compared to 100 men in the same age bracket. This ratio could rise to 121 women to 100 men by 2030. Women are the majority in many of the industries hardest hit by COVID-19, such as hospitality, tourism, restaurant, fast food, retail and entertainment. The report estimates that 40 per cent of all employed women – 510 million women globally – work in these sectors, compared to 36.6 per cent of employed men.

Those who want to report their domestic abuse to the police must deal with challenges like lack of transport to the police stations, which are often in neighbouring towns, and apathy from the police.” Godana says that he has also seen an increase in teenage pregnancies and arranged marriages. “In one municipality, 200 cases of teenage pregnancy have been reported over a three-month period. And the reality is that these girls, who are as young as 14, are being impregnated by elders, old men who should be protecting them. In some cases, the girls are forced into arranged marriages with these men.”

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FEEDING THE HUNGRY SANDY BUKULA, CEO of Operation Hunger, delves into why addressing issues around food insecurity is critical


f we are to hope for an equal future for all and end a vicious cycle of poverty, then access to healthy, affordable food and quality nutritional care is vital. But, such access is hindered by deeper inequities arising from unjust systems and processes that are part of daily life. Inequities in food and health systems exacerbate inequalities in nutrition outcomes, this, in turn, can lead to further inequity, perpetuating a vicious cycle. Operation Hunger, founded in 1978 to address malnutrition in South Africa, has witnessed first-hand the impact of malnutrition on the vulnerable in society. With an intimate understanding of the toll and anguish malnutrition has on the nations, the organisation has developed a pro-equity systematic model that responds holistically to Unicef’s Conceptual Framework Determinants Malnutrition, prioritising undernutrition, especially to women and children. In line with WHO standards, Operation Hunger continues to champion the nutritional development of all South Africans. The organisation reaches over 2.4 million families annually through its sustainable projects, developed to meet the immediate and long-term nutritional needs of vulnerable communities.

Operation Hunger has been addressing hunger and the nutritional crisis for 42 years.

However, the need for more equitable, resilient and sustainable food and health systems to address hunger is becoming increasingly urgent, especially during the current pandemic. Millions of people do not have enough to eat. Salary cuts and job losses continue to negatively affect the purchasing power of households. Focusing on nutritional wellbeing provides opportunities for establishing synergies between public health and equity. Operation Hunger’s 42-year effort to address South Africa’s nutritional crisis is centred on redressing inequality in food and health systems, aimed at ending malnutrition in all its forms. This requires strengthened co-ordination, alignment, financing and accountability.


PERIOD POVERTY Menstruation activist, speaker and academic CANDICE CHIRWA shares why we should fight the stigma around sexual, menstrual, and reproductive health



unt Flo. On The Rag. Girl Flu. Period. There are so many codewords for a natural function that we have been conditioned to be ashamed of. We rarely think of the implications and impact this silence has on young girls and women. I recall vividly when I first encountered period blood at the age of 10. This defining moment shaped the relationship I had with my body – and I admit that I hated my periods. All because I didn’t have the important conversations about what periods truly are: a transition between childhood and adulthood; that a young girl will experience hormonal fluctuations bringing on a wave of different symptoms; and, most importantly, that it is normal and okay.

My passion for feminism and reading unlocked my awareness around period poverty. Using my belief in feminism and acquired knowledge, I educate young people and society about menstruation. My passion for menstrual activism comes from a lack of critical education when I first started menstruating. It was and still is interesting that there is so much embarrassment, awkwardness and shame around a bodily function that impacts half of the population. A menstruator will menstruate for more than seven years – that is a long time to feel ashamed for existing. In South Africa, research has found that up to 30 per cent of girls miss school because of period poverty and being unable to afford menstrual products.

As the disruption to healthcare and the food chain as well as people’s livelihoods continues, due to the pandemic, social protection systems must be amplified.

ABOUT SANDY BUKULA Sandy Bukula has a strong sense of community development and empowerment nurtured in her youth while participating in community development and feeding programmes. Working at Operation Hunger aligns with her values. Her passion for the empowerment of all who call South Africa home is amplified at Operation Hunger. The NPO provides her with a scalable solution that has a tangible and Sandy Bukula measurable platform. This enables her to make full use of her MBA in Sustainable Development. Through the donors, support of the board and colleagues, Bukula’s confidence in Operation Hunger’s ability to change the nutritional status of South Africa is unwavering.

Thus, in tackling period poverty, I started my nonprofit company, Qrate, which focuses on enhancing critical thinking in young people about social issues. The company also hosts and facilitates fun and dynamic menstruation workshops as a way to provide young people with comprehensive menstrual and sexual education. It has been an uplifting journey to educate and empower the over 300 participants to date about a natural phenomenon. The Qrate workshops eradicate the fear a young person might feel when they first see menstrual blood and lets them know that while periods can be a pain, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.


Candice Chirwa

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THROUGH WORK Generation equality – realising women’s right for an equal future. A Q&A with Webber Wentzel managing partner SALLY HUTTON

How can organisations ensure that their policies and practices genuinely meet the needs of female staff DURING the COVID-19 pandemic?

Can you outline some other areas of progress?

Sally Hutton

What is the best way to ensure accountability on a gender strategy? Buy-in and commitment of time and resources from the most senior levels are vital. The Gender Strategy Working Group (GSWG), which I chair, oversees our formal, multipronged gender strategy, adopted in 2015, so it receives attention at the highest level. Structure and process are also important. Each year, we set targets and initiatives in various focus areas and regularly map and report back on our progress. A dedicated talent manager and transformation manager support us with the day-to-day operational work necessary to meet our objectives. These structures and processes facilitate accountability and ensure we are action-oriented and keep things moving forward.

of women partners. We aim for a 50/50 split of our total partner body by 2025 and have made significant progress already. Currently, 43 per cent of all our partners are women – a 23 per cent increase since 2015 – and 41 per cent of our equity partners are women – a 32 per cent increase since 2015. We have a strong pipeline too: 57 per cent of our legal services team are women. We have deliberately increased diversity in all our leadership structures over several years and women now comprise more than 40 per cent of our senior leadership team. We can see the positive impact of this in our decision-making and in the firm’s success – diverse teams find more robust and creative solutions.

What progress has been made in retaining and promoting women lawyers?

How important is role modelling?

For some time, we have been a South African “Big Five” law firm with the highest proportion


Role modelling is critical to organisational change – and we all need role models at all stages of our careers. As Sonia Sotomayor, the

We were the first South African firm to introduce parental transitional coaching in 2016 (for which we were awarded the African Legal Awards Diversity Award) – this has been very successful. We introduced a flexible working policy three years ago and are currently workshopping a hybrid working policy for the post-COVID-19 world. We conduct regular pay analyses and have reviewed all the firm’s policies (including our parental leave and bonus policies) to eliminate any gender biases. Every quarter, the GSWG compiles a transformation profiling report, focusing on the business development and profiling of women fee-earners. We are making a deliberate effort to be more inclusive in the way we pitch for work and profile our lawyers. We regularly conduct unconscious bias workshops and awareness sessions, including on race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and related issues. Most importantly, we have a values-based culture, which forms the backdrop for everything we do. Respect, transformation and diversity, collaboration and teamwork are all core firm values, which we insist are lived by all of our people.

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Many women, particularly those with young children and/or ageing parents, have borne the brunt of working through the COVID-19 pandemic. This is no surprise – women have traditionally borne more than their fair share of caregiving responsibilities and the pandemic has just highlighted this. Societal norms need to change to enable a more equal world – a much bigger challenge. All organisations can play an important part in this shift though, by actively making workplaces more inclusive and flexible and adopting policies to allow all their people (including working parents) to balance competing demands in a more gender-neutral way. This may include adopting flexible working practices (and a hybrid working model), instilling values of collaboration and teamwork, and ensuring teams are properly resourced and work is evenly allocated. This is also important generally for enabling good mental health through better work-life balance and allowing people the time and space to recharge.

first Hispanic woman to become a US Supreme Court Justice, said “a role model … provides more than inspiration; [their] very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying ‘Yes, someone like me can do this’.” As the first woman elected to a senior leadership role in a major South African law firm in 2015, I felt the absence of female role models in leadership roles keenly. This is all changing – several large South African law firms now have senior women leaders, and in only six months, four major global firms (Ashurst, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills and, most recently, our alliance partner Linklaters) have appointed women to senior partner or chair roles for the first time.

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