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Girls & Women

4 Powerful African Women You Need to Know


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Women are the key to making the world a better place, but until they're given an equal place at the table, no one can win. These women are showing that, when you educate a girl, it can make a whole world of difference. You can join us in standing up for women and girls, and demanding equal rights and equal access to education, by taking action here

Women are amazing — we're mothers, wives, daughters, aunts, sisters, cousins, grandmothers, friends, colleagues. But we're not defined by our relationships to other people, and we have our own dreams and ambitions too. 

These four women — among many others all around the world — are showing that, when a girl is given an equal chance for an education, she can achieve her own dreams and help the whole world in the process.

Take action: #TheTotalShutdown: Call on the President to End Gender-Based Violence

1. Khanyi Dhlomo

Khanyi Dhlomo, founder of Ndalo Media and Ndalo Luxury Ventures, is one of the most influential women in South Africa’s media industry. 

Ndalo Media, her publishing house, holds magazines such as Destiny, Destiny Man, Sawubona, and most recently, Elle and Elle Decoration, and has also branched out into events, book publishing, and more. And Dhlomo is using her success to uplift women and young professionals so that they too excel in their respective fields. 

She gives talks focusing on how you can change your mindset and apply it in your business, and has also created a mentorship livechat on the Ndalo Media platform to discuss successes and hurdles in her career, and also gives advice to her young mentees.

"We underestimate the importance of precision in our thinking,” she told the all-female audience at the annual Women’s Breakfast in Durban this year. “The best way to predict the future is to create it. We live in a very precise world. You act more clearly if you are precise about what you want. Articulate it and repeat to yourself on a daily basis." 

"It usually takes someone to show us it is possible to do something,” she continued. “We can use the power of our minds and imagination to create the reality we desire. I wanted to create media content that changes people's lives. One can do good while doing business."

Dhlomo also believes that if you let fear dominate your emotions, it will have a negative impact on your future. 

"Whatever emotion one chooses, it acts and attracts and has results,” she said. “What you think is important influences what we attract into our lives.” 

2. Bonang Matheba

Known as “Queen B”, Bonang Matheba is force to be reckoned with. 

She’s an influential media personality who dominates our TV screens, radio waves, and social media. She has over 5 million followers on social media and has grown her brand into an incredible success. 

Not only does she have her own reality show, Being Bonang, she also has a lingerie line with one of South Africa’s biggest retail stores, has written a book, and has her own production company.

But with all the different things Matheba is doing, she still has time to give back. Inspired by the inception of 2016’s #FeesMustFall, Matheba created the Bonang Matheba Bursary Fund, which awards 10 girls a year with bursaries for any Boston College in South Africa.

Matheba believes that education is one of the most important things anyone can have. 

“I believe that when you educate a girl child, you actually educate a community, and you educate a family,” she says on her website. “As girls tend to become the head of the household, these young ladies pay their education forward; and an education is something that nobody can take away from you. It has a generational advantage and value.”

Matheba has also teamed up with ONE Campaign in the fight against extreme poverty and leads the #GirlsCount campaign, which raises awareness about the 130 million girls who don’t have access to an education.

3. Nomzamo Mbatha

Nomzamo Mbatha, 28, is one of our most successful young television stars, but also centres her career around supporting children in Africa. 

Mbatha teamed up with the Clover Krush brand, for example, to hand out 1,000 pairs of shoes to schoolchildren. And she was also a part of Shoprite's #ShareForGood initiative along with the Department of Social Development — giving care packages to disadvantaged families in KwaMashu, in KwaZulu-Natal province. She also contributed R60,000 of her own money to the packages.

She also became an ambassador for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) last year, working in Africa. She helped young mothers and other refugees while visiting the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, and made sure she got to connect with mothers and hear their stories. Then, she visited South Sudan to shed light on the civil war, and the country’s 7 million refugees.

After losing a family member to suicide, Mbatha also advocates for mental health. She used her graduation dress to depict all the loved ones she has lost and also included the toll-free number for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). 

The dress included the words “resilience, courage, and overcome” — a message to those suffering from a mental illness and encouraging them to seek help. SADAG later said it saw an increase in calls in people seeking help thanks to Mbatha’s dress. 

Mbatha is also going to be a co-host at Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100, in proud partnership with the Motsepe Foundation, in Johannesburg on December 2.

4. Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng

A mathematician, researcher, and academic, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng is a highly-regarded scientist with over 80 research papers published. 

She also became the first black woman from South Africa to obtain a PhD in Mathematics Education in 2002.

Then, when she resumed her position of vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT) in July 2018 her first move was to pledge 10% of her salary to funding black postgraduate students, to support them in continuing their education. 

She also refused an inauguration ceremony due to the lack of funding for students, explaining that the “basic thing is, it’s not consistent with my values to spend money when there is such a shortage of it.”

Phakeng puts great value on education and is extremely involved in the university’s decolonial winter school programme, catering mainly to black African, coloured, and Indian academics. She is also the founder of the Adopt-a-learner trust, a non-profit providing financial and academic support for schools in low socio-economic areas. 

She believes that a child should not be academically disadvantaged because of their finances and it’s important for children to believe that they too can be successful regardless of where they come from.


The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.

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