In honor of Women’s Month in South Africa, we are privileged to highlight the perspectives of exceptional women leaders who have shattered barriers and paved the way for progress in their fields.

Hanlie de Bod’s inspiring trajectory from an accounting teacher to the role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator paints a portrait of resilience and unexpected opportunities. Despite her initial apprehensions, Hanlie’s leap into the world of IT as a SAP consultant paved the way for her to excel in a field where women in leadership roles are scarce. Embracing challenges head-on, she fearlessly navigated a male-dominated landscape, taking notes during meetings to expand her technical vocabulary and emerging as a driving force behind Harambee’s technological advancements.

She defies the notion that formal education is the sole path to success in IT, emphasizing problem-solving skills and a thirst for learning as vital attributes. Beyond her accomplishments, Hanlie sees her journey as a way to inspire young women, urging them to embrace fear and harness their bravery.

Kasthuri Soni, the CEO of Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, sheds light on the critical issues faced by young women seeking meaningful employment in South Africa. Soni highlights the stark statistics that a majority of youth not in employment, education, or training (NEETs) are female. She elucidates the multifaceted challenges faced by young women, including high data and transport costs, caregiving responsibilities, and gender-based violence concerns. Soni emphasizes the critical role of Harambee’s SA Youth platform, which offers young women access to opportunities and work-seeker support without incurring data costs. Notably, Soni spotlights partnerships with organizations like BluLever Education, fostering skills development and empowerment for women in traditionally male-dominated sectors. This holistic approach aims to reshape the narrative and provide young women with the chance to shine.

As Women’s Month comes to an end, these leaders’ stories and insights remind us of the power of perseverance, innovation, and collaboration in driving positive change. Their voices echo the theme of empowerment, underscoring the significance of supporting and uplifting women across all walks of life. Through their experiences and wisdom, they continue to inspire us to break boundaries, challenge norms, and strive for a more inclusive and equitable future.

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