10 Pioneering South African Women

On 9 August, we celebrate Women's Day in South Africa, a public holiday that pays tribute to the women of our nation.

The women's march on the Union Buildings in Pretoria in 1956 is a reminder of the heroic women who helped mould our country.

Today, we celebrate the remarkable achievements and the determined spirit of the courageous women who continue to advocate for change, defy norms, stand up for what they believe in, and persist in leading South Africa forward.

  • Rapelang Rabana

    1. "Time pushes everything forward. No stunning success and no sorrowful failure lasts forever. Absolutely everything comes to pass." - Rapelang Rabana

    Rapelang Rabana is the Founder of Rekindle Learning, an education technology company, and previously co-founded Yeigo Communications, one of South Africa's first mobile VoIP applications. As an exceptional entrepreneur, Rapelang has featured on Oprah Magazine's O Power List (2012); she was listed on Forbes's 30 under 30 list for best entrepreneurs of Africa in 2013; in 2014, she was named Entrepreneur for the World by the World Entrepreneurship Forum; and most recently, was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

  • Thandi Ndlovu

    2. "Live your life - nothing should stop you from living your life." - Dr Thandi Ndlovu

    Dr Thandi Ndlovu is the Founder of Motheo Construction Group, one of South Africa's largest black female-owned construction companies and a leading social housing developer. As a pioneering entrepreneur, Dr Ndlovu was awarded the Business Woman's Association of South Africa's Business Woman of the Year in the Entrepreneurs Category 2013. Other celebrated achievements include summitting Mount Kenya, reaching Base Camp on Mount Annapurna in Nepal, and summitting Mount Kilimanjaro twice.

  • Margaret Hirsch

    3. "Never listen to anybody who tells you, you can't do it. You know you can so just get on with it." - Margaret Hirsch

    Margaret Hirsch, the Co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of Hirsch's, the largest independently owned appliance and electronics retailer in Southern Africa, is renowned for her philanthropy and commitment to empowering women. She is a recipient of multiple of business awards including two Lifetime Achievement Awards in business and entrepreneurship, 2012 Entrepreneurial Businesswoman of the Year, South Africa's Most Influential Woman in Business and Government 2011, and more recently, she was honoured by Centre for Economic & Leadership Development.

  • Khanyi Dhlomo

    4. "... failure is an opportunity to learn and to do better next time. It's part of the path to greatness, which was never meant to be smooth." - Khanyi Dhlomo

    Khanyi Dhlomo is the Founder and Managing Director of Ndalo Media. She is also the Founder of DestinyConnect, Founding Editor of Destiny Magazine, Co-founder of Luminance, a high-end fashion and lifestyle department store, and she made history as the first black newscaster for SABC1 in 1995. As a businesswoman, Khanyi was named the Most Influential Woman in South African Media by The Media Magazine in 2003, was selected as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader in 2010, and made the 2011 Forbes list of 20 Young Power Women in Africa.

  • Wendy Luhabe

    5. "Women must make the choices that they want to make; I don't think that society should continue to make choices for women." - Wendy Luhabe

    Wendy Luhabe is an entrepreneur and a pioneer in the economic empowerment of women with almost 30 years of experience as a non-executive director on several boards both locally and internationally. Wendy is also the Founder of the Women Private Equity Fund, an Honorary Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order, and the only woman to currently sit on the World Rugby Executive Committee. She has also received three Honorary Doctorates and the 2015 Standard Bank Top Women Awards Lifetime Achiever Award.

  • Pam Golding

    6. "I have always believed that women can do anything they set their hearts on." - Pam Golding

    Pam Golding is the Founder and Life President of the Pam Golding Property Group - South Africa's leading and most awarded real estate company. She is internationally recognised as one of the world's leading entrepreneurs and businesswomen, and has been honoured for her achievements with numerous national and international awards, including the Ernst & Young World Entrepreneurship Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

  • Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

    7. "There is no great force for change, for peace, for justice and democracy, for inclusive economic growth than a world of empowered women." - Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Deputy President of South Africa, is currently an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Executive Director of UN Women. Previously, Phumzile was also a Member of Parliament; Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry; Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology; and the Minister of Minerals and Energy. A long-time champion of women's rights, she has devoted her career to issues of human rights, equality and social justice.

  • Wendy Appelbaum

    8. "The more you have, the more responsibility you have to share it with those who don't." - Wendy Appelbaum

    Wendy Appelbaum, owner of De Morgenzen Wine Estate, is a leading South African business woman and entrepreneur, having previously served as a Director at Liberty Investors, a Deputy Chairman at Women's Investment Portfolio Limited (Wiphold) and Deputy Chairman of the Connection Group Limited. Wendy is also an active philanthropist. Her involvement includes being Director of the Wits Donald Gordon Medical Centre. She is a Trustee of The Donald Gordon Foundation, CHOC and the Helen Suzman Foundation. She is also a member of the Global Philanthropists' Circle.

  • Jenna Clifford

    9. "Passion for what you do and determination are key differentiators between people who are great and those who are average." - Jenna Clifford

    Jenna Clifford is a world-renowned South African jewellery designer whose unique designs are sought after by business icons and celebrities around the world. Jenna is an advocate of women's rights and equality and is highly active in promoting women in business, receiving the honour of torchbearer to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals 3 project.

  • Koo Govender

    10. "Be open to opportunities, and don't be afraid to take risks, set goals for yourself and work hard to achieve them."- Koo Govender

    Koo Govender, the current CEO of Dentsu Aegis Network South Africa, has been actively involved in broadcasting and media for 22 years. She has held many prominent positions, including Group CEO of VWV Group, Corporate Marketing and Communications Director at M-Net, and Creative Services Marketing Manager for DStv. Koo is driven by passion and empowering women, mentoring and coaching many talented young women. In line with this passion, she founded Phakama Women's Academy - empowering and equipping young women with skills to thrive in the corporate world.

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