It's addictive. It can trigger feelings of sadness or anxiety. It makes people compare and despair. A lot has been said about the pernicious effects of social media and the internet.

But in many parts of the world, the internet has been a great equaliser, bringing access to information that would otherwise be out of reach to many. In developing countries, this means that people living in rural areas, or those with limited access to in-person services, can find educational materials, mobile health resources, and financial services in ways that were impossible before.

In fact, in 2016 the UN General Assembly passed a non-binding Resolution that “declared internet access a human right.” But as the COVID-19 pandemic revealed, there is a wide digital divide when it comes to who can access the internet and who can't. In the developed world, the internet penetration rate is 87%, but it's just 47% in developing countries and 19% in the least developed countries.

Why does that matter? As the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said before: “One fact sheet or an emergency message about an outbreak can be spread through Twitter faster than any influenza virus.”

But the internet, and social media specifically, is also a place where South African girls and women are flocking to find another crucially important resource: the internet big sister.

The internet big sister gives relationship advice, she helps manage your money, shares spiritual or career guidance, or even suggests the best way to shape your eyebrows. Their follower-sisters rejoice with them, learn from them, and are inspired and motivated by them.

The UN's Global Goal 5 — one of 17 Global Goals that work together to end extreme poverty and its systemic causes — aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls everywhere. This is an integral part of the mission to end extreme poverty — and why it’s crucial to celebrate women’s achievements, which among many things, includes lifting other women up.

So please meet some of South Africa’s internet big sisters, posting and creating content to inspire and educate thousands of girls and women on issues from health, to nutritious food, to advocacy, around the country and the world.

The Health Big Sisters

Onezwa Mbola Teaches You How to Be Resourceful With Food

Onezwa Mbola is a self-taught chef, food content creator, recipe developer, and private caterer. Mbola is all about that peaceful rural life, parenthood, and how to be resourceful. Her latest project sees her showing her 13,000 followers how she is raising chickens with no prior experience. Give her a follow and we look forward to seeing the results of your budding chicken farm.

Obakeng Makapane Shares the Benefits of Plant-Based Living

Obakeng Makapane — known as @obakeng_fitobi on Instagram — is a plant-based fitness entrepreneur. She runs a healthy eating account so if you’re looking for scrumptious vegan meal ideas (remembering that adopting a plant-based diet is one of the best things you can do for the planet), then this is the page for you.

Nozibele Qamngana Mayaba Fights the Stigma Around HIV

Nozibele Qamngana Mayaba is an HIV/AIDS activist and relationship influencer. Mayaba rose to fame after her first video post on YouTube went viral. The video in question is actually her journey living with the autoimmune virus and has more than 482,000 views.

Sade Giliberti Inspires You to Take Care of Your Mental Health

Sade is a South African TV presenter, actress, and firm advocate for mental health and well-being, whose passion lies in educating and mounting change, especially for the LGBTQIA+ community. She was significantly involved in the #HaltTheHate campaign, which addressed online bullying towards queer individuals. Find out how she does it on her page.

The Beauty Big Sisters

Mihlali Ndamase Gives Beauty Tutorials

Beauty and the Beats founder, Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 entrepreneur, and multi-award winning content creator, Mihlali Ndamase is one of South Africa’s biggest social media influencers. A skilled make-up artist, whose beauty tutorial videos rack up hundreds of thousands of views. Explore her YouTube channel for the best beauty tips.

Kay Yarms Gives Unmatched Hair Installations

No one can contest the force that is beauty and lifestyle influencer, Khetokuhle Ngonyama. Her distinctive voice and relatable content have garnered her the title of “most trusted influencer” in the country, according to South African news platform, IOL — and it’s easy to see why with her down-to-earth videos where she talks about everything from upgrading your wig to struggling with imposter syndrome. Get ready with Kay Yarms on her YouTube channel.

Vongai Mapho Celebrates ‘Being Real’

Your girl next door, with your everyday products! Mapho is the award-winning beauty influencer who stole our hearts because she isn’t afraid to be real with her audience. To get the glow, follow her on her Youtube channel and Instagram page @vongai.mapho.

The Arty Big Sisters

Bontle Modiselle Gives You the Moves

A woman of many talents, Modiselle is an actress, television presenter, radio personality, singer, and model but she’s best known for her dance and choreography prowess. Born and bred in Johannesburg, Modiselle’s movement is as energetic as the city of gold she lives in, and her meticulous attention to detail has landed her with a huge following. Find her on Instagram @bontle.modiselle where she’s joined by the likes of Kelly Rowland and Coach Cass.

Mbali Sebokedi Inspires With #BooksAsLewks

Any readers in the room? Mbali Sebokedi does book reviews with a twist. She uses each book as the inspiration for a fashion “look,” taking inspiration from its colours and themes. Each book is then paired with that “look”. This is your one-stop shop for literary resources and inspiration as well as makeup looks.

Sebokedi’s latest review introduces us to Brown Girls by Daphne Palasi Andreades and a look to match. Her Instagram page, @flowahh_, is a carefully curated collage of great literature and beauty recommendations, which we encourage you to explore.  

The Fashion Big Sisters

Sarah Langa Inspires With Fashion Outfits

Sarah Langa and fashion are synonymous in the context of South Africa. Langa’s Instagram page has more than 650,000 followers and there’s no surprise there. Her page has a vintage feel filled with pictures of fashion statements. Glam up your wardrobe with Langa’s Instagram, @sarahlanga, guiding you.

Yaone Refentse Will Help You Glam Up Your Wardrobe

Yaone Refentse is a fashion designer, YouTuber, and influencer. Don’t know who to call to glam up your wardrobe? This sister is a click away. Join her and be inspired by her fashion sense on her YouTube channel, Sister Party.

The Finance Big Sisters

Nicolette Mashile Gives Down-to-Earth Financial Advice

Nicolette Mashile is a host on the SABC 1 show, Daily Thetha and she is popularly known by the pseudonym, The Financial Bunny. This is because Mashile enlightens South Africans with financial advice they can integrate into their daily lives.

Nokuhle Kumalo Helps You Manage Your Money

A professional auditor who gives financial advice suited for young adults. Looking forward to learning how to navigate the corporate world? Follow her on her channel on YouTube, where she gives budgeting tips and tutorials on things like how to buy shares.

The Love Big Sisters

Mpoomy Ledwaba Gives Relationship Advice

This woman is South Africa’s sweetheart. When you think of relationship content, Mpoomy Ledwaba’s is one of the first few names to pop up. Married to Brenden Praise, the Idols SA 2013 runner-up, she creates videos with her partner about their love story. Find them on her Youtube channel.

Thickleeyonce Teaches You Self-Love

Loving yourself is just as vital as drinking at least eight glasses of water a day. Fortunately, we have Thickleeyonce, a body positive digital content creator who passionately reminds us to love and treasure ourselves. Find out about her plus size store and most self-loving affirmations on Instagram.

You can join Global Citizens in taking action here to empower girls NOW, by calling on world leaders to ensure girls and women everywhere have access to the education, health, and nutrition they need to thrive. 

Global Citizen Life

Demand Equity

Meet South Africa’s Internet Big Sisters Using Social Media to Inspire Women & Girls

By Tshiamo MobeLandile P. Mchunu  and  Katlego Ramokgopa