Dear Friends,

Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it – African Proverb

In the spirit of inspiring South African change-makers, the Motsepe Foundation Women’s Unit invited 6 top-performing high-school learners from our anchor schools to attend the Women Deliver conference in Vancouver, Canada in June.

The conference, held every 3 years in a different city, reflected on Canada’s genocide against indigenous women and girls this year. The frank discussions were hardly overshadowed by the beauty of the coastal seaport, and addressed the theme: Power. Progress. Change.

Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, the co-founder and CEO of the Motsepe Foundation, was invited to speak about the Power of Money

In her opening Dr Moloi-Motsepe spoke about investing in women and girls through education, and exposure to the knowledge being disseminated on international platforms.

“We have found that it is not enough to wait for women to come to you. We have to seek them out because the ecosystem is set up to exclude them… To invest in women is to invest in exponential gains. To propel the businesses of women is to improve their wellbeing and the wellbeing of our societies. When women become financially independent, they are able to challenge the status quo of our ecosystems and mobilise for change,” – Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe.

The conference invited world leaders including: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; His Excellency President of Ghana Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo; and Ethiopian President Her Excellency Sahle-Work Zewde. Each of them elevated the on-the-ground conversations onto national and international platforms for urgent change.

At the opening, President Trudeau announced a $650 million commitment for women’s reproductive and health rights, to be disseminated around the world. 

The opening plenary of Presidents also included 18 year old Zambian activist Natasha Mwansa, who spoke on behalf of the world’s young people, “There is no way things are going to be done for us, without us, because that’s just doing it against us,” she declared boldly. Natasha’s emphasis on holding ourselves and our leaders accountable for transformation earned her a standing ovation from the crowd and Presidents. 

Upon their arrival, the 6 learners from Motsepe Foundation anchor schools were invited to a high-tea with the President of Women Deliver, Katja Iversen. Their one-on-one with the conference President involved a discussion around collective and individual hopes for the future, with Katja sharing her own story of personal disappointments and triumphs for inspiration.

The learners were also invited to meet with philanthropist Melinda Gates and the head of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who serve as role models for their generation. 

The conference offered a concurrent Youth Zone platform for young gender advocates to network, have fun, and share their dreams for change. Amongst the learners favourite sessions were: My Body My Rights, which focused on the human rights violations against women and girls; the Power of Now, which mobilised the youth for change; and the virtual reality screenings of women accomplishing their dreams against all odds, which allowed the learners to virtually travel around the world in the shoes of different women.  

The conference emphasis on individual power spoke directly to the learners, who are already sharing their experiences with their peers through their national, regional and school leadership networks. 

“I’ve recently joined the Children’s Parliament, under the Commission of Balanced Gender Programmes. It is a platform to unleash my newly gained power and share this knowledge with the rest of the nation,” – Busisiwe Khaoue from Protea Glen Secondary School in Gauteng.

“I would love to create dialogue with my peers from many different backgrounds by calling on a small group of individuals to speak on these challenges and share their opinions, in order to learn from one another,” – Tiyandza Mtetwa from St Peters College in Gauteng.

“With my newly gained power I hope to unleash the power of others by turning their ‘don’t wants’ into ‘do wants’. Aspirations often begin with negatives. I’ll elevate the power of others by helping them embrace their passion, potential and immediate opportunities,” – Nthoto Kutuka from Beacon Secondary School in Free State.

“I was actually motivated to stand up for what I believe in… Change doesn’t occur overnight, it takes time to achieve what you want… The dinner with Dr Precious got me to see something else I should consider doing in the future: Starting my own businesses,” – Olona Mvoko from Excelsior Secondary School in Eastern Cape.

“As I’m speaking, I’ve already implemented plans at my school on: How we can raise up our voices to be heard and use our power,” – Uzwothe Mukwevho from Thengwe Secondary School in Limpopo.

“I was able to overcome my fear of heights when Dr Precious took us sight-seeing… I also learnt a lot from the My Body, My Rights session, whereby girls were taught to stand up for themselves and be their own protectors. I was taught how to take care of myself and not be ashamed,” – Lindelwa Samba from Sitintile Secondary School in Mpumalanga.

Their sparked inner assurance will drive the success of their future as they embark into professions that bring social value to us all.

Of course, the trip couldn’t end without a bit of sight-seeing. The girls were treated to a cliff-walk at the Capilano Suspension Bridge Park, as well a view from the top Skyride. The Skyride cable car offered spectacular views of the city of Vancouver, the sparkling Pacific Ocean, and Gulf Islands before reaching the peak of the mountain. The learners’ glimpsed their first sight of snow, as well as two cheery grizzly bears excited to feature in their selfies.  

For the Motsepe Foundation, investments in the youth and women have stimulated on-the-ground activism to lead change!

The Women Deliver 2019 Conference took place from 3-6 June 2019 and is the world’s largest conference on gender equality and the health, rights, and wellbeing of girls and women.