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Meet the Women Who Have Journeyed from Adversity to Advocacy



3 min



The Centre for Gender Equality, Wellness, and Leadership (GEWAL) has encountered remarkable women who have triumphed over challenges and are now dedicated to empowering others to do the same.


Vino Govender

“I don’t have major profits; I am barely breaking even. But you don’t give because you have a lot. You give because you know what it is to have nothing,” says Vino Govender, an entrepreneur and philanthropist.


“After my dad passed away, my mom and I relied on state grants to complete my matric. We had to move from the house we were living in, and we had nowhere to go. We lived with my sister and her baby in her one-bedroom apartment, and I slept in the entrance hall,” Vino recalls. But this wasn’t her only experience with having little.

“My husband passed away and a few months later I was retrenched. He passed by suicide, so there was no insurance and in 14-years of marriage we hadn’t accumulated wealth. My son had to be taken out of his private school. I would buy a quarter loaf of bread and only eat when he was finished.”


Before her son was born, and when he was still young, Vino would give in small ways. “I started at the children’s home because I wanted my son to be grateful for everything he had. He would go with me and play with the children.” But after her husband passed, Vino found comfort in old age homes where she offered her time to others who also felt lonely. “Their stories really tugged at my heart. Some parents had not been visited by their children in years”.

This inspired her Forgotten Moms High Tea for moms who live in shelters and in homes where they have been forgotten by their children. She uses the annual tea to spread love to women who often have no love shown to them during Mother’s Day.


“My mess is my message” she says. “When your journey is traumatic, it makes you bitter, like you’re filled with poison. But when you share your story, a bit of poison is released, and you start to heal.”

Over the years, Vino has expanded her work to include supporting girls at local schools and women in rural areas with the Motsepe Foundation’s Little Black Book for Women.


“I talk to girls about teenage issues such as menstruation, sugar daddies, suicide, and sexual harassment. These are taboo issues and I hope to make them comfortable talking about it and I support them where they need help.” Before the pandemic, Vino would arrange a coach, legal assistance, psychologists, and pads for the girls, based on their needs at the time.


Armed with the Little Black Book, Vino has travelled to rural areas to work with women. She talks them through the book and also trains them in basic computer skills to improve their economic opportunity. “They may have access to a smartphone, but they don’t know what they’re looking for. The reading material makes more sense, and the most useful information are the contact details and steps to take.”


Vino admits that her sacrifices have made an impression on her son, who now works to facilitate employment for ex-offenders and former drug addicts.


“I know what it is to sacrifice my own education so that my son can go to a good school,” she says. But she has also learned along her own journey that “People don’t want things. A lot of times, they just want someone to care”.