International Women’s Day 2020: Rise Up Leaders Call for Gender Equity in South Africa and Worldwide

Rise Up’s first cohort of leaders in South Africa gathered at our Leadership and Advocacy Accelerator in Pretoria in February 2020

On this International Women’s Day, as we celebrate our progress toward a more equitable world for girls and women and take stock of the work that remains to be done, we asked some of our newest Rise Up Leaders to reflect on the urgent need for action to advance gender equity in their home country of South Africa and around the globe. We also asked these visionary leaders from our first ever South Africa cohort to reflect on how what they learned in Rise Up’s seven-day Advocacy and Leadership Accelerator will impact their advocacy for girls and women. Read on for their responses and to see photos from the Accelerator. 

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Rise Up’s South Africa Leaders on the urgent need for action to advance gender equity:

Jamela (right) with fellow Rise Up Leaders

Jamela Roberston

“As a country we can’t afford to continue leaving women and girls behind anymore. We are witnessing the detrimental effects of that, including gender-based violence and femicide, and high levels of poverty and unemployment in households headed by women.”

Rise Up Leader Lebogang sharing during an activity in the Accelerator

Lebogang Tisane

“South Africa has a long history of gender discrimination rooted in patriarchal practices that exclude women and make them subordinate to men. Issues such as the gender pay gap, gender-based violence, and the lack of adequate representation of women in prominent positions in government and corporate South Africa reveal the cracks in the current system and how inequality continues to grow.  This needs to be addressed in order to truly embody the South Africa spoken of in the founding values of the constitution.” 

Kim with fellow Rise Up Leader Emmanuel

Kim Lithgow

“Despite the tools and instruments at the disposal of legislators and policy makers, the laws in South Africa have not yet been fully translated into impactful changes in society that will allow them [women, girls and LGBTQI populations] space to thrive. Patriarchy, heteronormativity, cisnormativity, and gender biases adversely affect the lives of everyone. 
Our collective voice is the very thing that will achieve our goals for equality, respect, inclusion, justice, dignity and freedom, while still embracing and affirming our many diversities. Human rights are women’s rights, human rights are children’s rights, human rights are LGBTI rights, and as we fight for each other’s right to exist, to be safe, to thrive, we fight for our own rights to do the same.”

Nkosikhona reflects on learnings at the Accelerator

Nkosikhona Welcome Mpungose 

“As long as this issue is ignored in South Africa, then this country will remain near the top of the list for inequality around the globe.”

Soretha (left) with fellow Rise Up Leader Glory 

Soretha Venter

“If you advance a woman or girl, you advance the community. Our communities are suffering and need leaders as soon as possible.”

Avril (far left) and Ntokozo (far right) with fellow Rise Up Leaders Rene, Glory, Dipuo, Nqabakazi, Joyce, and Moude

Avril Campher

“The heart of South Africa is bleeding as a nation – the injustice towards women and girls has become the norm, a sad reality that MUST change.”

Ntokozo KaMadlala Nxumalo 

“Women and girls have the power to lead transformation.”

Rise Up’s South Africa Leaders on what they learned through the Advocacy and Leadership Accelerator: 

Matshepo shares takeaways with a fellow Leader at the Accelerator

Matshepo Kekana

“We have been treating the symptoms, while actually the scourge of gender-based violence requires us to identify and deal with the root causes…As a Rise Up Leader, I will be advocating and influencing decisions within political, economic, social systems and institutions on issues, policies, and legislation affecting our workforce.”

Unathi (left) and fellow Rise Up Leader Moude 

Unathi Mahlati

“Sometimes as advocates we get so impassioned and want to tackle all the trees in the forest at once instead of focusing on just one tree, and then from that tree tackle one root. 
The work we do of trying to bring about political change takes time. We need to be patient yet resolute in our fight for gender equality. Much work has been done, and so much work remains to be done.”

 Lesego (center) with Nomzamo and Ntokozo

Lesego Masethe 

“Identifying the root cause of any situation makes it easier to get relevant stakeholders and influencers to assist you with your mission.”

Joyce, Dipuo, Avril, and Nomzamo

Joyce Nomagugu Msomi 

“Progress towards gender equality is being made, but we need to advance the speed as gender inequality continues to harm girls and women in South Africa.
I left with a clear vision of what advocacy is and knowing that a tree has many roots. You can not attend to all of the roots at the same time, but you need to tackle each root as the need arises and form collaborations with other organizations to deal with other roots.”

Dipuo Thobejane

“One important thing I will take home from this experience is the importance of alliances.”

Nomzamo Gcwensa

“Advocacy helps mobilize and advance civil society’s work on the ground – it adds substance and has greater sustainable impact.

Rene (right) and Lebogang 

 René du Plessis 

“We are all working towards a common goal of providing more opportunities for women and girls and it is important that we join our efforts, as many voices are harder to silence than one voice.”

Ntuthu (right) and Unathi

Ntuthu Mbiko-Motshegoa

“Through a united approach we stand to achieve more. We need to understand our allies clearly and know how best to utilize our relationships.”

Rethabile (left) and Jamela

Rethabile Mosese

“My favorite part of the Rise Up Accelerator was the sense that we are “rising up together,” that we are a community of likeminded individuals with diverse backgrounds and expertise committed to a shared vision. One important thing I will take home from this experience is that we need to have uncomfortable conversations in order to move towards our shared vision.”

Hameedaa shares her perspective during an activity at the Accelerator

Hameedaa Deedat 

The space allowed for connection as human beings, as leaders, and people who have endured and continue to endure pain and yet have risen above these circumstances and are channelling this positively to be agents of change. We came in as strangers and left as family!

Learn more about Rise Up’s Gender Equity Initiative.