In honour of National Women’s Month, we are celebrating some of South Africa’s most influential and honourable women. These powerful women are inspiring positive change within an array of different industries including business, politics, government policies, media, art, music, medicine and law.
Here is a list of some of the phenomenal women of South Africa who are creating positive change within the country, and whose work is shaping the 21st century.
Khanyi Dhlomo is a South African businesswoman, TV host and the founder and CEO of the South African content company Ndalo Media. Through her media company, Dhlomo publishes two thriving South African magazines – Destiny Magazine and Destiny Man – whose content targets professional and career driven South African men and women.
In 2017, Dhlomo made history when her business became the first black-owned media company to acquire the license to run the ELLE and ELLE Decoration media brands. Dhlomo was named the Most Influential Woman in South African Media by The Media Magazine in 2003, and then made the 2011 Forbes list of 20 Young Power Woman in Africa.
Human Rights lawyer, equality expert, South African advocate and politician, Thuli Madonsela is sure to be in our history books for many years to come. An advocate for gender equality and the empowerment of women, Madonsela is a member of the South African Lawyers Association (SAWLA) and the Business Association of Women (BWASA).
From 2009 through 2016 she served as South Africa’s public protector and continues to contribute to the South African Law Reform Commission. From working closely with Nelson Mandela in 1996 to forming South Africa’s constitution, Madonsela was determined to make just contributions to South African politics.
Influential poet, performer, actress, presenter and producer, Lebogang Mashile uses her talent to address political consciousness in our society.
In 2002, she began to achieve recognition as one of South Africa’s most popular young artists. Mashile was the also the presenter and producer of the conceptual television programme L’Atitude which introduced viewers to the personal experiences of South Africans, as well as a reflecting on the South African society we live in today. Mashile hopes to use her artwork and talent as an expressive tool to inspire change in the post-apartheid South Africa.
Born Lerato Molapo, Lira is a South African musician and singer whose name translates to “Love” is Sesotho. Lira was discovered in 2000 and was signed to 999 Music label. Since the release of her debut album, All My Love, Lira has become a multi-platinum selling and 11 times South African Music Award-winning musician.
Lira describes her music as a “fusion of soul, funk, elements of Jazz and African.” She has performed alongside artists including Alicia Keys, John Legend and Shakira, and was selected to perform at the former president Nelson Mandela’s 92nd birthday celebration.
Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng
Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng runs a women’s health care practice in Johannesburg and is the Deputy Chairperson of the Sexual and Reproductive Justice Coalition of South Africa (SRJCZA). She is an educator and activist of the youth and has produced numerous articles and video blogs discussing sexual and reproductive health. On top of this, Mofokeng has produced a sexual health radio show on Kaya FM.
Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng has been awarded the 2016120 under 40: The New Generation of Family Planning Leaders as well as the Mail and Guardian 200 young South Africans in 2016 prize. Dr. Mofokeng hopes to collaborate with the government to empower and inform girls and young women to know and understand their own bodies. She also aims to provide the youth with extensive advice and information in order to encourage them to make informed choices regarding their personal sexual health.
Influential author, columnist, journalist, TV and radio presenter, producer, activist and member of the UN Global Journalists Corps, Redi Tlhabi is both an influential and inspiring woman. After achieving an Honours Degree in Political Economy and English Literature, Tlhabi began working as a television and radio journalist for some of South Africa’s most respected media and news brands including SABC and ETV news.
As well as being a proud advocate for women’s rights and empowerment, Tlhabi has always strived to be a part of important political conversations in South Africa. Tlhabi uses her voice as a platform to tell the stories of the silenced and the oppressed. In 2013, Tlhabi won the Alan Paton Award for her bookEndings & Beginnings: A Story of Healings.
Lady Skollie, born Laura Windvogel in Cape Town is an artist and activist now based in Johannesburg. Windvogel first started studying traditional art forms at Frank Joubert Art Centre, and in 2009, received a Bachelors of Arts in History and Dutch Literature.
Lady Skollie’s art is a reflection of her feminist values. Her work tells stories of gender issues, sexuality, intimacy, human connection, violence and abuse. Through her art pieces, Windvogel aims to defy taboos by communicating themes and circumstances that are often difficult to talk openly about. In 2017, her exhibition, Lust Politics, was featured at the Tyburn Gallery in London.
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Women of Africa is a BBC season recognising inspiring women across the African continent. The first series, Africa’s Unsung Heroes, introduces eight women who are making a difference in their country – and beyond.