In honour of the fearless women who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 to protest against equality, we celebrate three phenomenal women in the aviation and tech spaces, unapologetically occupying space. Affirming that our struggle icons did not die, they multiplied.
The 9th of August 1956 was a watershed moment for South Africa as 20 000 women took to the streets of Pretoria to march to the Union Buildings as part of the Anti-Pass Campaign, led by anti-apartheid activists Lilian Ngoyi, Helen Joseph and Albertina Sisulu. A day we have come to know as Women’s Day in South Africa.
Women played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle, and are cementing themselves in society 29 years into a democratic South Africa. There are examples of women shattering the glass ceiling everywhere. These women have gone against the grain, positioning themselves as trailblazers of our time.
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The Eastern Cape born religious, social and political activist became the first black South African woman to obtain a degree from university in 1903. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Wilberforce University in Ohio. This is also where her aspirations for leadership were born and cultivated. In the same year, she married Marshall Maxeke, and they returned to South Africa with the intention of making a difference during a dark period. In 1912, they settled in Bloemfontein and together with other like-minded people, they formed the African Native National. She became instrumental in transforming the social and political landscape for women. And used her platform to elevate the profile of women’s rights. “There are many among us who have begun to make their mark in history, and I believe there are many more waiting to rise, for the opportunity to excel.” – Charlotte Maxeke.
29 years into a democratic South Africa, there are examples of women shattering the glass ceiling everywhere. These women have gone against the grain, positioning themselves as trailblazers of our time. In honour of the fearless women who played a pivotal role in the liberation struggle, we celebrate phenomenal women unapologetically occupying space. Affirming that our struggle icons did not die, they multiplied.
Meet Asnath Mahapa
Asnath became the first African woman commercial pilot trainee in South Africa in 2003. And the founder of the African College of Aviation (Pty) Limited.
When an individual becomes conscious of their uniqueness, they start taking responsibility for finishing the work they came to this world to do. Seeing people’s lives change for the better because they understand that they have a unique purpose to fulfil is what inspires me. It would not be possible to be where I am if it were not for those women who stood their grounds and marched to the Union Buildings in 1956 for this course where we can do anything today. I stand on those women’s shoulders. With this in mind, it means it is possible, you can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. Inspiration for women should be an ongoing practice, not only in August. With regard to the baton, mine is to pass it on, and as a result we have more African Women who are pilots today. My wish for the next generation of female pioneers is to never give up, because it does not get easy. Given the opportunity, I would thank the women who fought in the liberation struggle for fighting relentlessly on behalf of the future generations, levelling the playing field. My message for Women’s Month is, “if you can break the cycle at the stage of thought, the decisions and actions which follow will always be of higher quality” unknown author. Learn from your failures, they are your teachers.
Meet Kele Boakgomo and Yolanda Nobanda
These women in tech are the Founders of Yugrow – Africa’s first behavioral tech platform built by women, for women.
Glamour: What inspires you?
KB: I’m inspired by possibility, and what can be achieved by all of us, if we tap into our creativity, purpose and collective strengths. With nothing predetermined, everything is possible.
YN: I’m inspired by the human ability to not only overcome adversity, but to flourish, in-spite of it.
Glamour: Please talk to us about your groundbreaking app, and what it means to you to live in an era where women can do anything?
KB: Firstly, this app is exactly what we needed as we navigated our corporate and entrepreneurial careers. We spent a lot of time with women at all career levels, understanding their pain-points and what they believed was preventing them from building and sustaining thriving careers. This is why we sought to build something to support women to drive their growth, leveraging technology, behavioural science and the power of community. Yugrow is designed to be your personal coach – in your pocket, allowing you to drive your growth at your own pace, as you listen to transformative content and track your goals (both physical and career). Women on the app have told us they especially love the community aspect, where you do not have to go at it alone but connect with like-minded and growth invested individuals. We are living in an era where we know that women have always had the ability to do anything. The work that we focus on is to agitate for women to pursue High Impact Goals that contribute to their businesses and organizations and to do so with agency and authenticity. It’s fantastic that the world is now engaging more deeply with this topic, and we are encouraged by that.
Glamour: What does it mean to you to carry the baton from the women who came before us?
YN: It propels and inspires us to make the most of the opportunities that are available to us, such as technology, collective intelligence and urgency to achieve equality, to build a platform with the scale to impact women globally.
Glamour: What’s your wish for the next generation of female pioneers?
KB: That they partner and collaborate with other female pioneers, recognising that there is power in the collective and that we must leverage each other’s knowledge, networks and experiences, and break down the exclusive clubs. The truth is that we cannot go at it alone, given the amount of work to be done to get to equal.
Glamour: What’s the tone of the conversation around women empowerment in 2023?
YN: There is an urgency of wanting to get it right. Companies especially are recognising that traditional approaches to female talent development haven’t worked, as successful women cite being bullied, belittled, and challenged on their successes, and made to feel as though it’s not their place to take up so much space. We are observing a keenness to invest in initiatives that have impact and drive sustained long-term results.
Glamour: If you were given an opportunity to have a conversation with any of the women who fought in the liberation struggle, what would you want them to know?
KB: I’d want them to know that they did more than just liberate us, but that they shattered external barriers and have inspired generations after them to continue to challenge what they believe is possible for themselves. What I would task us as the women of today with levels, understanding their pain-points and what they believed was preventing them from building and sustaining thriving careers. This is why we sought to build something to support women to drive their growth, leveraging technology, behavioural science and the power of community. Yugrow is designed to be your personal coach – in your pocket, allowing you to drive your growth at your own pace, as you listen to transformative content and track your goals (both physical and career). Women on the app have told us they especially love the community aspect, where you do not have to go at it alone but connect with like-minded and growth invested individuals.
History will also remember...
Sibongile Rejoice Sambo
The first South African black woman to start an aviation company in the private jet space in 2004. Her company, SRS (Sibongile Rejoice Sambo) Aviation provides helicopters and private jets. The company has since expanded to include Aero Metals which manufactures elementary parts for new aeroplanes.
20-year-old Black female activist at the forefront of decolonisation in schools and black radical feminism movements in SA. She’s also the founder of the “Stop Racism at Pretoria High School for Girls.” She established movement at the age of 13 to fight institutional racism which included rules such as ‘black girls have to straighten their natural hair. The fearless leader is also a recipient of the 2022 Young Activists Summit in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2019, she added the title of author to her impressive resume. Her book, My Coily Crowny Hair elevates the conversation around natural hair.
Rebone Bella Modisha
In 2017, she became the first black woman to qualify as a PGA golf professional in Southern Africa. Under her company, Bella Modisha Golf Evolution, she runs a development programme for girls in Alexandra, Johannesburg.
Ntombemhlophe Bam The impactful gender activist is one of the first women to chair the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). She is also a recipient of the illustrious Mahatma Gandhi International Award for Peace and Reconciliation.
The youngest author in South Africa. The 9-year-old has published 2 books, and has been counted amongst the to top 10 youngest authors globally.
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