Four Women-Led NGOs Leading the Charge for Change in South Africa

Four Women-Led NGOs Leading the Charge for Change in South Africa
Four Women-Led NGOs Leading the Charge for Change in South Africa. Image source: Unsplash

Although there’s plenty of merit to the work done in responding to the most persistent challenges affecting the lives of women and girls during Women’s Month, it’s possible that the country has lost sight of the meaning behind the annual August celebration.

Women’s Month marks the march of more than 20 000 women to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 to voice their objection against the extension of Pass Laws to women, taking charge of a situation they found intolerable and making a stand against it. We need to bring the focus of Women’s Month back to empowering and celebrating women taking charge of their own destinies and inspiring a seismic shift in society.

There’s plenty of need in South Africa – and there are many women-led organisations making progressive, positive contributions towards meeting them, be they in social, environmental or education realms. MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet is proud to number a host of these women-driven beneficiaries amongst the more than 8 500 organisations that members’ thousands of card swipes support financially, every month.


Education Revolution

Tracey Chambers is a Chartered Accountant with more than 25 years’ experience in the corporate and social-impact sector and is passionate about poverty eradication, early learning and micro-enterprise business models. In 2014, she co-founded GROW Educare Centres with Lisa Voortman, pioneering a new model for 5-star quality early childhood education in South Africa.

GROW Educare is a non-profit social enterprise which equips and connects ECD businesses with the skills, support & resources they need to provide 5-star early learning for every child. 45 GROW ECD Centres currently educate over 2 000 children daily. The organisation offers a mobile application for ECD centre owners and principals to help them manage the entire facility, centrally and their ECD Small Business Program teaches people everything they need to know to run a sustainable ECD business.

Annual Essentials

Debbie Zelezniak is Chief Executive Officer at Santa Shoebox Project – although she prefers the title ‘Creator of Lightbulb Moments’. The Santa Shoebox Project originated in Cape Town in 2006 with a humble 180 shoeboxes – and 17 years later, over 1.1 million have been donated and distributed to more than 1 000 recipient facilities each year, through more than 60 satellites around South Africa and Namibia.

Debbie has been instrumental in designing and implementing the Virtual Santa Shoebox (VSS) initiative, enabling donors living too far from drop off points to pledge and create personalised Santa Shoeboxes for profoundly impoverished children living in far-flung rural areas.

The success of the Project can largely be attributed to its personal nature – donors give gifts of essential items and treats to children whose names, ages and genders are known. The minimum 8 required items are a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, a wash cloth, sweets, a toy, school supplies and an outfit of clothing – all new, unused and age-appropriate.

Creating Employment Opportunities

Ariellah Rosenberg is Chief Executive Officer of The ORT South Africa Operational Trust, an accredited, award winning non-profit education and training organisation affiliated to World ORT, which was established in 1880. She has a decorated history in the education management industry and is skilled in E-Learning, Classroom Management, Educational Technology, Instructional Design,and Public Speaking.

ORT focus on developing teachers, youth, businesses and communities, by improving the standard of education. Their aim to make people employable is aided via the ORT SA Academies which include the STEM Academy, Skills and Enterprise Academy and an IT Academy with emphasis on the 21st Century Skills and has touched tens of thousands of South Africans.

The ORT SA STEM Academy works with schools on STEM education, IT, coding and leadership training, the ORT Skills and Enterprise Academy offers post- schooling programmes in IT, Skills Development and Entrepreneurship, ORT Jet has assisted thousands of businesses by providing the tools and support they need to become financial sustainable and the ORT SA Eric and Sheila Samson IT Academy was established to bridge the digital divide of knowledge, skills and awareness towards IT career options. A Career Hub exposes people and youth to career options and to what the “jobs of the future” are all about, to let them explore their strengths, passion and career paths as well as providing experience and skills transfer to make sure they are ready and equipped for the workplace.


Reading the Room

Headed by General Manager Sunitha Amod, Biblionef operates according to UNESCO’s Book Donation Charterdonating new storybooks in eleven languages to schools and children’s organisations throughout South Africa. These books support endeavours to improve literacy levels, establish a reading culture, and help create the right circumstances to foster a love of reading.

Sunitha has been with Biblionef SA for more than 18 years and was appointed as General Manager in 2019. She has played a major part in the success story that enabled Biblionef to distribute nearly 1.8 million books in the 20 years of the organisation’s existence. She is passionate about reaching out to needy areas to provide children with access to the beautiful and colourful storybooks that Biblionef makes available. She leads a team of six highly skilled staff members who work together to bring only the best storybooks to the children of South Africa.

“We’re delighted to partner with any organisation doing genuine good in their community – or across the country because they’re taking the destiny of the country’s people into their own hands and proactively making a difference,” says Pieter Twine, General Manager: MySchool MyVillage MyPlanet. “Our beneficiaries work across so many areas – and to see so many of them led by compassionate, driven women is something we hope empowers even more women to seize opportunities to play a major role in developing our country’s future”.