According to 2017 gender research by Amnesty International, there are currently 31 million girls of primary school age that are not in school. There are 4 million more girls out of school than boys and 3 countries have over a million girls not in school. There are 774 million illiterate people in the world and two-thirds are female. Many of these are just numbers on a page, but for 31 million girls it’s a harsh reality. In 2018, statistics like these are unfathomable, and quite simply unacceptable says the CEO of the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) Ms Philisiwe Mthethwa.
“Although these are global statistics, South Africa is experiencing similar trends. A reality that has led the NEF to join the Cell C campaign of Take a Girl Child to Work Day. Cell C’s Take a Girl Child to Work Day has become one of the most important, life-changing day for schoolgirls around the country. The much-lauded initiative has had a powerful impact on the lives of more than a million girls, preparing a core of future women leaders who will be vibrant catalysts in the economy and leading job creators for our country, said Ms Mthethwa.
For the NEF the development and empowerment of young women is at the heart of the corporate social investment initiatives. Annually, this initiative hightens the urgency for socio-economic change and the promotion of gender equality. This year again the NEF participated in the eighth such initiative, which saw the development financier hosting 30 learners aged between 16 and 17 years from rural and township schools across the country at its head office in Johannesburg.
The NEF’s mission with this Take a Girl Child to Work programme is to motivate and inspire girl learners.
Addressing the learners Ms Hlengiwe Makhathini, Divisional Executive Venture Capital and Corporate Finance, advised that they should not be eager to join the chase for wealth and material things, but instead they should remember where they came from and plough back to their communities.
The head office programme included an excursion that saw the learners visiting a range of companies in various economic sectors which included the NEF-funded Smith Capital, a 50% woman-owned engineering and manufacturing company in Benoni, Busamed Modderfontein Private Hospital, a black-owned state-of-the-art medical facility in Johannesburg, Motheo Construction, a black women-owned engineering and construction company, Bonngoe Production, a multigenre television content producer, as well as Power 98.7, a Gauteng based radio station that also broadcasts nationally via the DSTV radio platform. While at Power 98.7 the learners were addressed by two young published writers, the 9yr-old Michelle Nkamankeng as well as the Kenyan based 10yr-old writer, Natalie Wambui with three titles already published, who advised the learners that, “it is never too early to start working on your passion. I hope to continue to inspire people with my writing and make an impact in the society”. The learners were further exposed to different professions available within the radio spectrum.
The learners also visited DM5 Incorporated, a law firm specialising in corporate law as well as Microsoft in Bryanston, where the learners were introduced to various opportunities in the ICT sector.
While at the NEF the girl learners were addressed by various women professionals, these included Ms Khanyisa Mzilikazi, Senior Investment Associate, Ms Matlale Serobe, Investment Associate and Ms Viwe Didishe, Legal Advisor.
In her address the NEF CEO further encouraged the learners to continue studying further and to prioritise service to communities as a lifelong vocation that contributes to nation building. “Go get that law degree and when you do, ask yourself if the only option is to defend the rich and powerful, or if you can also find time to defend the powerless. Think about defending the poor and helpless and making a difference by adopting, inspiring and assisting others,” said Ms Mthethwa
I urge you to go and get your MBA, or start that enterprise because we need black businesses out there, that is what the NEF was established to support. In addition, ask yourself what broader purpose your business might serve, in putting people to work, or transforming a neighborhood or community,” she added Take a Girl Child to Work Day Ms Makhathini further advised the learners that the most successful CEOs she knew did not start out with an intention to make money, rather, they had a vision of how their product or service would transform things, and the money followed.
Ms Innocentia Pule, the NEF Chief Financial Officer, demonstrated the various opportunities that a qualification in the Economic and Management Sciences can unleash. She further told the learners that “Excuses are tools of the incompetent, used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness, South Africa no longer has time for excuses.” In total the NEF hosted 160 learners across all its 8 regional offices.
While addressing the event organized by the NEF Northern Cape office in Kimberly attended by the Hon. Premier, Sylvia Lucas, Mr Setlakalane Molepo, Divisional Executive for SME and Rural Development said, “for us at the NEF gender equality is the process of allocating resources, programmes and decisionmaking fairly to both men and women and is achieved when both enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation. These are the reasons the NEF is here today to participate in this national campaign in the Northern Cape”.