Wdb in the news black and white


It takes a rural KZN village to raise a businesswoman

13 Oct 2017

Twenty-three years after South Africa’s democracy, just 25% of senior management roles are occupied by women and 34% of the companies surveyed do not have a single woman in senior management. The results of the survey, outlined in the most recent Grant Thornton International Business Report, are a stark indictment of the pace of change in the country, believes Faith Khanyile, the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa (Bwasa) Businesswoman of the Year in the Corporate category.

At chief executive level, the situation is even more dismaying, with the report saying women occupy only 10% of positions - who represent more than 50% of our population - who are significantly underrepresented in positions of economic influence and decision-making.

“Something is fundamentally wrong with these statistics and must be addressed. The change will require interventions by all stakeholders - starting from how men and women are socialised from a young age, changing perceptions around gender-specific roles and more deliberate policy interventions,” says Khanyile from her Women’s Development Businesses Investment Holdings (WDBIH) offices in Illovo, Joburg.

She was raised in a village outside Empangeni in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and gender equality was not debatable. “I come from a family of six children (three boys and three girls), and I’m the second-born. My parents, who owned a general store, emphasised equality and the value of education to all of their children.”

There was no slacking off, because all the children were expected to help out - whether doing chores at home or helping in the family business. “From a very early age I was made to know that my gender doesn’t determine what I can or cannot do. We were all encouraged to work hard and the importance of educational excellence was instilled in us at a young age.”

Actively involved

With parents heavily invested in their academics, failure wasn’t an option. “(My parents) were actively involved in school governing bodies and knew most teachers, so we basically had no place to hide! We were also expected to assist at the shop after school and on weekends, so we had very few idle times."

Her parents - strong, community-orientated role models - helped shape Khanyile’s views on women’s roles in society. “My parents continue to be involved in community development till today; my mother helps women become self-sufficient by starting their own businesses, such as small-scale farming, sewing, etc. Both my parents also taught me about the importance of sharing with those less privileged.”

A keen runner who has completed the Comrades Marathon twice, Khanyile set her sights on success at an early age. In 1986 she obtained a scholarship to study at a prestigious high school in the US. She remained in the country for her tertiary studies, graduating on the Dean’s Roll with an economics degree. She has an MBA from the Bentley Graduate School of Business in the US and attended executive leadership training at Columbia Business School in New York.

“I always wanted to be in business, I guess, because of my upbringing. I was about 22 years old when I decided that my university major was going to be economics; I think at that point I was also lured by the hype around investment banking and Wall Street. I then continued with my MBA, which I completed in 1994 and I joined Brait Capital Partners, a private equity firm in 1995.”

She’s the chief executive and founding member of the Women’s Development Businesses (WDB) - which was established in 1991 by women for poor rural women’s economic upliftment - and the WDBIH. Women’s economic empowerment and diversity in the workplace are causes close to Khanyile’s heart.

The WDB’s investment arm, a broad-based women-owned and managed business, was established in 1996 to provide a sustainable source of income for the WDB Trust, which has benefited close to 200000 people in rural KZN, Limpopo, the Free State and Mpumalanga. She also serves on the JSE-listed boards of Discovery, Safari RSA Investments, Seed Engine (a supporter and funder of SMMEs), and International Housing Solutions, an unlisted private equity fund.

The WDBIH, which drives women’s advancement within their investments, serves on the boards of strategic investments such as Discovery, FirstRand, Assupol and Tsebo Solutions Group, where they promote women’s representation at senior and executive levels. “We currently manage a portfolio of 17 investments with total assets under management of R6billion and we have repatriated approximately R200million of dividends to the WDB Trust.”


English literacy

Besides investing in women, Khanyile’s WDB supports a primary school in KZN near her village. “We sponsor English literacy facilitators through an NGO that works to improve English literacy in previously disadvantaged schools. The facilitators provide teacher training as well as teach English to grades one to seven. The children that excel get an opportunity to receive a high school scholarship sponsored by a top asset management company.”

The fact that women are “disappearing” from the path to senior leadership - despite having the same levels of aspiration as men at the beginning of their careers - is of huge concern to her. The Grant Thornton study underscored the fact that the number of women in senior or executive positions has either plateaued or declined in the past decade - across the globe.

“Some of the key reasons are that as women’s lives change once they start having families, they do not get the kind of support and flexibility from their workplaces that would encourage them to either return to work or attain the family-work balance”, she says.

Having to choose between a career and family is not only unfortunate, but it also means companies and economies lose out on untapped female talent. “What needs to happen is a change in the corporate cultures and mind-set among the boards of these companies as the tone is set at the top.

"We need boards to actively promote the retention and advancement of women by creating the right environment for women to continue to contribute even after they have had children. The advent of technology which allows people to work from remote locations should enable such changes. Sustainable change will only happen if leaders are made to account for women’s advancement and empowerment.”

At a corporate level, that means culture and mindsets need to change: boards of directors must take accountability for promoting gender diversity and retention of top female talent, she believes, adding high-potential women candidates must be sponsored to give them an equal chance to grow and be promoted. “Those women leaders who have made it must become advocates for women’s advancement by promoting and demanding real transformation in the boardrooms.”

The Businesswoman of the Year nod is wonderful recognition from her peers, which Khanyile hopes will inspire others to start their own businesses - and to see what’s possible to create significant business from “almost nothing”. “I am grateful and humbled to have received this recognition and the award has given me renewed energy to keep pushing harder for positive change and impact.”

Khanyile, who has been in business for more than 18 years, admits patience hasn’t been her virtue. “I used to be impatient with myself and everyone else - my husband, my children, my team/colleagues, my friends, etc. I wasn’t a good listener either. With the help of a great coach and many moments of self-introspection and working on myself, I think I am definitely less impatient now.”

Patience and listening might have come with maturity, but Khanyile’s not in it for herself. “I am always stretching myself to do much more, both at personal and professional levels.

“As I have grown older I have done a lot of introspection to find my purpose, and I have come to the realisation that I get personal fulfilment by being of service to others and not necessarily by accumulating physical things for myself alone. I am extremely energised by young people as well, I mentor many young men and women inside and outside my company as I believe I have a responsibility to lift as I rise - and I love learning from these young minds.”

(via) Business Report

Banking On The "Unbankable"

25 Sep 2017

Say the name Mavis Makukule to former First Lady Zanele Mbeki and her face lights up with pride. “She was our very first client,” says Mbeki. “She is what we like to call the ‘poster girl’ for WDB.” The admiration is mutual. A beaming Makukule has the same reaction when you talk to her about Mbeki. She recalls the time in 1992 when Mbeki and her team first visited the village of Green Valley in Acornhoek, Mpumalanga, to recruit “clients” for the fledgling WDB microfinance programme. After some basic training, Makukule joined forces with a group of women and they received their first basic loans. Group lending forms the basis of the microfinance programme. Makukule sold meat and other goods to the local community. The loan was exactly what was needed to take her small business to the next level. “We managed to repay the loan in three months. This inspired us to work harder,” she says.

Makukule and her group took out more small loans and the business prospered. “She grew the business very quickly and before we knew it, she wanted to rent a room with a partner to start a butchery,” recalls Mbeki. In addition to the butchery, Makukule went on to open a number of other businesses, eventually upgrading her home, putting her children through school and buying herself a car. Mbeki refers to Makukule as a “serial entrepreneur”, as she always has a new business idea on the boil. She hails her as a role model for other women around the country.


With her training as a social worker, Mbeki has always been passionate about the eradication of poverty and the upliftment of women. When she returned to South Africa from exile in the 1990s, she looked
around and saw that poor women in SA had no access to finance in order to start their own businesses. She says that in the early days some work was being done by NGOs to train rural women and equip them with skills, but these women had no financial support to take their skills further. “For instance, you would be taught to sew, but would have no means to buy a sewing machine,” she says. This sad reality encouraged Mbeki and her partners to focus on banking on the “unbankable” women in marginalised South African communities, mostly rural areas, so they could access much-needed funding. The Women’s Development Businesses was born – with a very basic business plan, lots of heart and a big dream. The idea of targeting poverty through creating business opportunities at the most basic level was inspired by the approach adopted by Prof Muhammed Yunus, the Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize winner and a good friend of Mbeki. “We based our programme on the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh’s philosophy of giving step-up microloans to the poor,” she says. “We had a simple vision: to provide small loans to rural women to help them start small-scale, incomegenerating activities.”


With start-up funds of just R20 000 from businessman Vusi Ngubeni, WDB began a pilot project in 1991 in Acornhoek. Fifty female clients were identified and were lent R300 each. Five of the real “go-getters” from this group, including Makukule, asked for R500 with an option to repay the loan over six months. All Mbeki and her team could do was hope and pray that they would see the money come back in one way or another. They needn’t have worried. The loans were all paid back within the prescribed time, if not sooner In addition to lending small amounts to women, WDB got involved in other areas of development. “We also began various training programmes to assist with basic business and literacy skills,” Mbeki says.

By 1995, WDB opened the second branch of WDB Microfinance in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga. Since then, WDB has helped thousands of women launch their own businesses, enabling them to improve the
lives of their families. When WDB celebrated its 25th birthday last year, the figures were pretty astounding, with more than 180 000 rural women having benefited from loans totalling more than R400 million and more than 3 000 women having received computer-based literacy and basic business skills training. “One of the things you learn in microfinance is that if you put development resources directly into the hands of the poor, they can change their own lives,” Mbeki says.


After many learning curves, stumbling blocks, adaptations and modifications, WDB’s Siyakhula Microfinance Programme has had a make-over and is ready to make an even greater impact on the lives of those living in poverty. The programme makes use of the socio-economic assessment (SEP) tool to evaluate a household’s socio-economic status on the basis of “12 dimensions of poverty”. The programme is not a “grant”, she stresses – rather, it is an opportunity for people to move out of poverty due to their involvement in enterprise-based activities.


• The WDB team will visit a rural area, meet community leaders and introduce the microfinance programme. Once the leaders have bought into the idea, field workers from the area are trained and then the “client” recruitment process begins.
• Field workers from the community go from door to door, looking for clients. Those interested in being part of the programme fill in the SEP form to determine if they qualify for a loan.
• The process makes use of digital technology (mobile phones). When a client has been cleared, they are ready for business.
• Once the field worker has secured a group of 10-25 clients, they form a “centre”. Siyakhula works with the “power of the group”, but transactions are with individual members of the group and each member is responsible for repaying their loan.
• The members of the centre take part in a five-day training session, then fill out forms and follow all the necessary procedures. Clients are vetted before training commences to ensure they qualify for the loan.
• Field workers also help first-time borrowers to open a bank account.
• Disbursements and repayments are controlled and confirmed at centre meetings, which take place once a month.
• Loans begin at R500 and can be repaid over a period of four months. It is emphasised that loans are not for paying for food, but are for enterprise development only.
• If a client successfully repays the loan, she can qualify for the next rung of the loan ladder, another R500, R750 or R1 000. Loans can grow up to R3 500.

• Visit: www.wdbtrust.org.za for more information on the
Siyakhula Programme.
• For more information on the Grameen Foundation,
visit: www.grameenfoundation.org

WDB Investment Holdings increase equity stake in Seed Engine to 51%

17 Aug 2017

WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH) has increased its stake in Seed Engine (incorporating Seed Academy and the WDB Seed Fund) from 35% to 51%, officially confirming Seed Engine as a proudly 51% black women owned company. Venture capital company Grovest is Seed Engine’s second major shareholder with a 30% stake. The increased share underscores the long-standing relationship between WDB and Seed Engine and their joint commitment to the transformation of the South African economy through the development of black women and youth entrepreneurs. 

Seed Engine incorporates Seed Academy, an entrepreneur activation business, as well as the WDB Seed Fund, a Section 12J fund focused on growth-stage businesses. Donna Rachelson, CEO of Seed Engine, says WDB’s impeccable track record of fasttracking women entrepreneurs speaks for itself. 

“We know that growing entrepreneurship is one of the biggest challenges facing our country. We also know that the development of women entrepreneurs is an even greater challenge as only one in three entrepreneurs are women and only 38% of black women owned businesses are formally funded. WDB and Seed Engine are focused on making a meaningful impact by supporting entrepreneurs who are resilient and able to build sustainable businesses that create jobs,” explains Rachelson. 

The WDB Seed Fund provides access to funds, markets, high-level mentorship and business support to investee companies, whilst simultaneously offering significant tax benefits for corporate and individual investors. 

WDB, incorporating the WDB Trust and WDB Investment Holdings, has a 25-year track record of delivering high-impact socio-economic programmes dedicated to increasing the participation of women in the South African economy

Faith Khanyile, CEO of WDB Investment Holdings says the partnership serves both the business and social agenda of WDB in promoting true socio-economic transformation to ensure women are economically self-reliant. 

“WDBIH’s increased investment in Seed Engine comes from a well-established strategic partnership and we are confident that our shared vision will continue to provide strong leadership and advocacy for female entrepreneurs.” Khanyile adds that the creation of more business opportunities for women is of vital importance which led WDB to increase its stake to 51%. “We are fully confident that our mission of ensuring even more women are equipped to compete successfully in the South African economy will come to full fruition. The fact that women entrepreneurs are currently underrepresented in relation to the population is something we aim to change one success story at a time.” 

This transaction also comes at the recent conclusion of the inaugural and highly successful AccelerateHer programme, a three-month business accelerator for female entrepreneurs – a joint initiative of WDB and Seed Academy which creates a pipeline for the WDB Seed Fund. 

“Constructively engaging women entrepreneurs is critical to supporting economic growth. Women entrepreneurs support and uplift their families, their communities, and have the power to profoundly uplift South Africa as a whole,” says Rachelson.

Let’s chat! For innovative, impactful interventions that enable entrepreneurs to build successful, sustainable businesses and offer a real, measured return on investment contact us – from ESD programmes to AccelerateHer and the WDB Seed Fund – we’ll tailor a solution to meet your objectives. 

(via) Seed Engine

WDB Investment Holdings finalises a landmark empowerment deal with Tsebo Solutions Group (Pty) Limited

08 Aug 2017

July 25, 2017: WDB Investment Holdings (Pty) Limited (WDBIH) has finalised the acquisition of a 25% stake in Tsebo Solutions Group (Pty) Limited (TSG), supported by a funding package provided by Standard Bank of South Africa, a key funding partner to WDBIH.

The transaction marks one of the largest acquisitions concluded by WDBIH to date and establishes them as significant shareholders in TSG together with well-known international investors, Wendel and Capital Group Private Markets (shareholders at the Tsebo Holding level) and the Tsebo Empowerment Trust. WDBIH will hold two board seats on the TSG board and actively support the future growth of the asset as it pursues its strategy of becoming a leading Facilities Solutions provider across the African continent. 

Tsebo are the largest provider of facilities services in Africa. Through their 37,000 staff and 41 offices in 23 countries Tsebo provides local and multinational clients with a full range of “non- core” services that can be operated individually, or in an integrated package.  Tsebo has a proud record of empowering communities, developing its employees, maintaining a broad- based shareholding and enhancing the African agenda, evidenced by its Level 1 empowerment rating within South Africa. Tsebo enables its clients to maintain focus on their own core operations without the distraction and cost of maintaining their business infrastructure. Their clients benefit through reduced risk, cost and complexity, with improved transparency and productivity across their African portfolio.

Clive Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Tsebo, said:

“We are honoured to have welcomed WDBIH to the Tsebo family. Tsebo has a history of enduring partnerships with women’s investment groups notably Nozala and Lereko, and they are a vital component of our company leadership dynamic. WDBIH will bring fresh insights to our strategy and accelerate the value Tsebo can bring to its markets and stakeholders in the years to come”.

Established in 1996, WDBIH is a women-founded, led and operated investment holding company, which manages a portfolio worth approximately R3billion currently and seeks to be a strategic and transformational investor in both listed and unlisted companies. WDBIH’s portfolio investments currently include FirstRand, Discovery, Bidvest Group, Bidcorp Group, Ascendis Health, Woolworths Holdings and Assupol Life. Some of its key objectives include playing an active and strategic role in its investments and ensuring the financial sustainability of the WDB Trust. The WDB Trust is mandated to bring about both economic upliftment and social advancement of poor rural women in South Africa.

Faith Khanyile, Chief Executive Officer of WDBIH, said:

“We are excited to team up with partners that share our values and vision for the African continent, whilst also contributing significantly to the transformational objectives in this country. We believe Tsebo is well positioned to continue its robust growth across Africa and we look forward to working with our new partners to create long term value.”

Wendel is a leading European listed investment firm, which invests internationally, in companies that are leaders in their field, such as Bureau Veritas, Saint-Gobain, Cromology, Stahl, IHS, Constantia Flexibles and Allied Universal. Wendel plays an active role in these companies, implementing long-term development strategies, which involve boosting growth and margins of companies so as to enhance their leading market positions.

Capital Group Private Markets is an experienced leader in emerging markets private equity and a pioneer of the global approach to building a diversified portfolio of the most compelling risk-adjusted investments across global emerging markets in the funds it manages. Capital Group Private Markets has historically backed strong management teams and market-leading franchises through selective access to the most compelling emerging markets its focused regions and sectors.


Sleeping Out and Changing the World

26 Jun 2017
Faith khanyile

 A transformation catalyst at the boardroom table, Faith Khanyile is certainly not averse to rising to a challenge, both in and out of the Boardroom. So when faced with the opportunity of taking part in The SheEO SleepOut™ to raise funds for the Door of Hope charity*, she was one of the first CEOs to put up her hand and say “count me in”.

At a time when abuse, inequality and femicide are at all-time highs in South Africa, a special chapter of the popular CEO SleepOut™ was announced, supported by Minister of Women Susan Shabangu. The event calls on female business leaders to sleep outdoors for one night – to not only raise awareness of the issues facing women in South Africa, but also to raise much-needed funds.

Taking part in the event comes with a significant price tag as each participant needs to raise a minimum R100 000 mandatory pledge in order to attend. Khanyile is up to this challenge…

“This initiative is very close to my heart and to the heart of WDB,” she says. “WDB is really about advancing women, it’s about developing women, it’s about transformation AND it’s about driving change - so for us as WDB and for myself personally, we were quite inspired and excited by the concept of The SheEO SleepOut™”.

She says The SheEO SleepOut™ creates an opportunity for women to take leadership and is a novel way to drive the change that they want to see happening in South Africa.

“The challenges of homelessness, poverty and inequality are challenges that we as women are really at the centre of. Those challenges impact us directly and I think this is an opportune time for us to be visible, to have those conversations, to have our voices heard but most importantly to take action,” says Khanyile.

Faith took part in the inaugural CEO SleepOut™ in 2015, and thoroughly enjoyed the camaraderie among her peers (all captains of industry). She is inspired by the fact that the event has awarded over R34-million to beneficiaries since its inception and believes the SheEOs will add significantly to this.

This time around she is calling on five of her influential business friends to ‘Rise to the Challenge’ and set up camp, namely: Janine Hills from Vuma Reputation Management; Mary Bomela (MIC); Sonja Sebotsa (Ethos Private Equity); Professor Shirley Zinn and Louisa Mojela (WIPHOLD).

The organisers are hoping for 250 “industry leaders” to take part in the event, which lasts from 6pm to 6am. The fact that the SleepOut™ is taking place at the Union Buildings, the historic site of the Women’s March in 1956, simply adds to the gravitas and meaning of the occasion.

R100 000 is just the amount to get you into the event, but raising even more might prove a powerful incentive for these self-professed over-achievers. Some healthy competition will no doubt set the leader boards alight as the event draws nearer and these mavens of industry do their best to outdo each other, all in the spirit of friendship and making a difference to those vulnerable children at the Door of Hope.

One can only wonder what the conversations under the stars will be all about –who knows whether any real shut-eye will take place? – but you never know, by morning, The SheEO SleepOut™ participants may have solved all the problems of the world, and then some.

The SheEO SleepOut™ takes place on the eve of Women’s Day, 8th August at the Union Buildings. For more information, visit: www.theceosleepout.co.za

* The Door of Hope charity: Statistics state that in Johannesburg alone, at least three babies are abandoned every day. The Door of Hope charity aims to save abandoned babies and provide a safe family environment Visit: www.doorofhope.co.za

To help Faith achieve her donation goal and help this wonderful charity, Click Here 


WDB Investment Holdings

CEO, Faith Khanyile speaks to Leadership Magazine

22 May 2017

In 1996, a group of dynamic women started WDB Investment Holdings (WDBIH) with the bold aim of driving women’s economic empowerment in South Africa. Their plan was to do this in tandem with supporting the financial sustainability of WDB Microfinance, a not-for-profit microcredit programme that runs under the WDB Trust. WDB Microfinance itself had been formed five years earlier to provide developmental microcredit to rural female entrepreneurs. “Our aim for WDBIH is to make investments in diverse listed and unlisted companies in South Africa and then, to add value to these investments by sitting on the relevant company boards in order for us to positively influence the business strategy of these companies, as well as the advancement of women,” says Faith. The true mark of success for WDB is that they have been able to provide finance to almost 200 000 female rural entrepreneurs, and have had a knock-on effect in terms of job creation through their role as change agents in their investee companies.

On the balance sheet, that success is represented by WDBIH now being a R3 billion company, in addition to distributing dividends to the tune of R200 million to the WDB Trust, which uses those funds to finance business opportunities and job creation initiatives for female rural entrepreneurs. “We are proud of being unique and what we really wanted was to prove that, as an all-woman team, we can do it ourselves and, indeed, we have demonstrated that gender is not a determinant of business success. What matters most is purpose and execution. “I believe that corporates must take gender equality seriously, as research, again and again, demonstrates that contributions from diverse leadership teams lead to a positive impact on the business’ bottom line. Women have unique abilities that are critical to the overall functioning and success of society,” she says.

The company’s pay-off line is ‘Women Investing in Women’, and behind this commitment is a powerful belief in the power of women to make a success of themselves and their communities. “We believe in the unique abilities and talents of each individual woman and we follow this belief by providing finance to female entrepreneurs to help them realise their potential. As a woman-founded and woman-led organisation, we believe in growing and developing other women, including our staff and our board. All this is done to allow women to be equal participants in South Africa’s economy and society at large,” says Faith.

The natural pool of talent that the company captures is highly-skilled professionals such as chartered accountants, lawyers and MBA’s,but the company also runs a learnership programme through which unemployed graduates are able to spend a year at a time with WDBIH— an opportunity which gives them invaluable research and financial skills for them to use later in their careers. However, the issue of women leadership in the corporate world is something which Faith and her partners are extremely passionate about. “At the WDBIH board level, we have a development programme where we appoint young women in board subcommittees or even on main boards to give them exposure at a strategic level. In our investee companies, we always insist on having a board seat to allow us to add value to the business in general but also to drive the advancement of women in senior and executive roles.“We would usually insist that a WDBIH representative joins the Transformation Committee where we will advocate for the appointment and promotion of women in various critical roles,” says Faith. 

The key to their success has been a strong emphasis on developing the individual, including creating an environment that allows each individual’s unique abilities and talents to be nurtured and realised, and providing ongoing development and mentorship. “We also challenge people by giving them stretch performance targets that are achievable but that require them to continually raise their game, while being results-oriented and expecting the highest levels of professionalism from everyone. This is a vital aspect of our company culture,” she says. Staying true to their commitment to small businesses, in 2012, WDBIH piloted a SMME fund that provides loan finance, training and access to markets for female entrepreneurs. Targeting the missing middle market, the fund provides loans ranging from R50 000 to R300
000 to female entrepreneurs in sectors such as agriculture, retail and light manufacturing. “In order to scale up our SMME funding activities and to significantly increase our impact in this important sector of our economy, we recently took a 30% equity stake in Seed Engine, an entrepreneur incubator and accelerator.

Through this investment, we launched the WDB Seed Fund on 2 September 2016, where we aim to raise between R50-R100million in the next 12 months. This impact fund will provide equity funding to SMMEs that can create jobs, but the fund will prioritise the funding and mentorship of black women and youth business,” she says. The recent drought and issues around food security have cast an ominous cloud over the national economy, but through their investment in agriculture, Faith sees potential, despite the lack of storm clouds on the horizon. “On a small scale, through the finance and technical support that we have provided to small-scale farmers over the years, we have been humbled to witness the challenges but also the potential in the agriculture sector. We have funded female farmers who, in turn, supply the likes of Tiger Brands and AVI and, with the profits that these ladies make, they are able to grow their businesses and send their children to school. We, therefore, know that, with the right tools (funding, technical support and access to markets), South Africa can establish a thriving, small-scale farming sector,” says Faith. However, she is quick to add the proviso that future success in the sector definitely requires focussed and intentional intervention by all stakeholders who are interested in growing this sector.

Faith knows full well the value of a quality education, having had the opportunity of studying in the United States. In 1994 she brought back to South Africa a wealth of knowledge and experience gathered while earning her MBA as well as a Degree in Economics. She then spent five years with Brait Private Equity, and it was there that she met the founder of WDB Microfinance, Mrs Zanele Mbeki. “She introduced WDB to me and I was hooked from there,” recalls Faith. Without a doubt, it’s been the people behind the business who have built WDBIH into the investment giant it is today, and Faith has a clear vision of how to assemble an effective team.First and foremost are the people—appointing the best people, incentivising them and challenging them. Secondly, a business needs to have a purpose, and it’s this purpose which is so important when it comes to motivating staff and keeping them engaged with their work as well as with the goals of the company. Of equal importance are relationships, as you do business with people that you trust, which is why it is important to maintain and nurture relationships. Finally, comes leadership of the company and within the company. “Leaders must always support their team and
must also be prepared to get their hands dirty,” says Faith.

“Lead by doing… and serve others. You have to be resilient and determined, you have to be a people’s person because leadership is about others, not you. You have to be driven by something more than profit—find a purpose that serves humanity, the profit will naturally follow and have a lot of energy, as you need it to deal with the challenges that are certain to come. I think you need to be ‘whole’—mind, body and
spirit—in order to sustain the high pressure of being a leader.”

Faith believes that, for South Africa to achieve the more than 5% annual growth that’s required to deal with our current high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequalities, it’s important to harness all the talent we have within the country. “Women make up more than 51% of the population, but only constitute 27% of Senior Managers in the private sectors and worse, at less than 10% at board levels. We need to ask ourselves why the representation of women dwindles dramatically when it comes to high paying and decision-making positions in both the private and public sectors… and then we need to deal with the root causes,” she says. Some of these root causes that Faith highlights include the fact that corporates, in general, do not create environments that are conducive to the retention of women at senior levels, as well as the fact that there are no mentorship and sponsorship programmes targeted towards female talent. The result is that women tend to exit these organisations just before they hit their career peak and when their impact and influence could make a major difference, both to their business as well as in terms of the wider perception of what women are capable of achieving.

“The CEOs and ExCos must own female talent management and sponsorship of women and must be held to account through their performance targets,” she argues. “Corporates and government organisations must create work environments and establish policies that encourage women to have flexibility as they go through the various stages in their personal lives. This is not about special treatment for women, it is about normalising the abnormal, ensuring that all talent is harnessed for the sake of growing our economy and, most important, it is about walking the talk in creating a fair and equitable society for all.” The investment industry is an exciting and challenging field for anyone, but Faith believes it is an industry in which women can thrive. She believes it’s important for ambitious women who want to make their mark in this sector, to first set clear goals but, at the same, they need to be open and flexible to take advantage of any opportunities that may arise for them along the way.

“You need to be centred internally and know who you are and what drives you. On top of that, you have to be prepared to work hard, make some sacrifices along the way and, most important, to find mentors and sponsors to help you navigate your way through the business landscape,” says Faith. “The fact that women from all backgrounds— black and white, privileged and underprivileged, young and old—have come together as WDBIH and have managed to build an organisation that has touched the lives and assisted so many people across South Africa’s rural communities and, in the process, has grown into multi-billion rand organisation that is a role model to others, makes me realise that nothing is impossible to achieve, as long as you have dedication and passion.”

As an empowerment leader, mentorship is naturally close to Faiths’ heart and is a part of her personal and corporate DNA, and she has personally mentored many young men and women during her career.
“Young people are impatient and energetic; they want success and promotion and they usually want it all now, but they are also socially conscious and they know what they want out of life,” says Faith.

She has many good memories from her time at Standard Bank, including one where she helped an ambitious young female graduate who was desperate for a promotion to Manager, following her 12 months of training. “I liked her courage and chutzpah but had to gently guide her to show her that she wasn’t ready for the promotion. Instead, I assisted her in writing a career plan and setting goals for herself. “Later on she did well in the bank and moved to another division in a senior role. The satisfaction that I get is when one of my mentees grows and thrives as a result of my relationship and guidance. Mentorship, I believe, doesn’t just benefit the mentee—the mentor also gains tremendously from the interaction,” says Faith. In addition, WDBIH introduced a scholarship programme in 2015 aimed at supporting female
university students in fields where women are scarce, such as in the faculties of engineering, finance and science—they have partnered with two institutions in this initiative. This sense of community, sharing and caring for all South Africans underpins the company’s competitive advantage as a purpose-driven organisation.

“We are not just about making money—we are also about making a difference in the lives of the most marginalised individuals in society, who are rural black women. We have such a unique business model that runs in our DNA and our partners are attracted to partnering and supporting us because of this. “At 25, we are more than a grown-up—we now have a responsibility to impact South Africa and women on a larger scale. We have built a solid foundation to enable us to dream even bigger than we did in 1991. With our partners and friends, we believe we can achieve the impossible in the next 25 years and can contribute to continuing to make South Africa great.” 


Empowering women to eradicate poverty in SA

21 Jul 2016

WOMEN Development Businesses (WDB) celebrated its 25th anniversary last week with a dialogue titled Making Poverty History.

It was attended by women from across SA’s socioeconomic spectrum, facilitating sobering discussion on poverty and the ways in which sustainable livelihoods can be created for the poor.

WDB has since 1991 been working to eradicate poverty in rural communities. The brainchild of former first lady Zanele Mbeki, it provides microfinance to impoverished rural women and runs social support programmes through the WDB Trust.

"When I returned from exile in the early 1990s, I wanted to work in a sector that supported rural women, because they are the face of poverty, and we need to improve their material and social conditions," Mbeki says.

More than half of South Africans live below the poverty line and 10% live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.25 a day.

Statistics SA’s recent 2016 Community Survey found that almost 20% — or nearly one in five — households ran out of money to buy food in the past 12 months while 13.3% (2.2-million households) reported skipping a meal in the past year.

Speaking at the WDB dialogue, Mbeki said women had the right to raise a capable and healthy generation, create thriving livelihoods where they live, and to plan their futures. "It’s amazing to me that in 2016, WDB still has clients who are in the same dire economic position as the clients we had in 1991," she said.

Mbeki said that although monthly grants for the poor are a welcome safety net, these grants are for consumption rather than development and, therefore, do not lift people out of poverty. What is needed, she believes, are productive loans for entrepreneurs and support programmes that help the poor to help themselves out of poverty.

The WDB Trust’s Siyakhula Microfinance Institution, based on the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh’s approach to microcredit, enables impoverished female entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses through access to step-up loans. With this assistance they can uplift their families and communities.

Through its Zenzele Development Programme, the trust supports community self-organisation and links the poorest households to development resources to help them out of poverty. To date, more than 180,000 rural women and their families have benefited from WDB Trust loans of more than R400m, and thousands more women were trained by the trust in literacy and basic computer skills.

WDB Investment Holdings, which was started in 1997 with seed capital of R2m, and with the sole purpose of funding the WDB Trust’s programmes, today has a net asset value of R3.8bn, and has repatriated more than R200m to the trust.

Addressing the audience at the dialogue, Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said women were the most affected by poverty and also had the most impact when it came to eradicating it.

Fatima Shabodien, ActionAid SA’s country director, said while South African women had been fighting for a place at the economic table for the past 22 years, and some had made it to CEO positions and were on boards of JSE-listed companies, the economic framework needed to be questioned.


"The current economic model is fundamentally premised on the exploitation of people and the environment. For the first time in history, there is global agreement that this macroeconomic framework does not work for the majority of people globally, rather serving the interests of a few, based on race, class and location," Shabodien said.

She added that questions had to be asked about the kind of economy SA needed to build to create long-lasting opportunities for women, and how societal values could be shifted to a point where the notion of women’s equality was not an anomaly but the norm.

Mamphela Ramphele called on South Africans to re-imagine and rebuild SA into the country they dreamt of when developing the Constitution.

"Today that dream is blurred. SA has the resources for all of us to live comfortably. What we need as we celebrate WDB’s 25 years of excellence in development, is to commit ourselves to building SA, we re-imagine and rid ourselves of poverty and socioeconomic injustices, demanding and asserting our rights and exercising our responsibilities," she said.

Mbeki said she would like to see WDB creating a savings bank for women, so that they could borrow money at reduced interest rates.

WDB, Grovest take stakes in Seed Engine to develop entrepreneurial businesses

07 Jul 2016

Wednesday, 6 July 2016: WDB Investment Holdings (WDB) has taken a 30% stake in Seed Engine (incorporating Seed Academy).  Grovest, a Venture Capital Company has also taken a 27,5% stake in Seed Engine.

Faith Khanyile, CEO of WDB, says its investment brings together a common concern that these organisations are working to address, the transformation of South Africa’s economy by developing sustainable entrepreneurial businesses.

WDB, incorporating the WDB Trust and WDB Investment Holdings, has a 25 year track record of delivering high-impact socio-economic programmes that directly improve people’s lives, especially the poorest and most neglected. “We needed a strategic partner that would instantly allow us to scale up our efforts around entrepreneurship in SA, especially amongst women. Seed Engine was one of the first ICT accelerators in this country, and this dynamic for-profit social enterprise is now supporting the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem from startup through to supplier.”

Jeff Miller, CEO of Grovest explains that his organisation brings an in-depth understanding of the entrepreneur and venture capital ecosystems, a solid track record of successful investments and over 100 years combined management experience in capital raising, listings, MBOs and trade sales.

Donna Rachelson, CEO of Seed Engine and Seed Academy, says entrepreneurs are the job creators of the future and these investments have created strategic partnerships that will amplify our training, support and funding mechanisms at every stage of the entrepreneurial lifecycle. “It will help unlock well-known barriers the small business sector faces, like access to markets and access to funding.

“Incubation is not producing the results SA needs and entrepreneurs are battling to build and scale their businesses and create jobs. We take a fresh look at our entrepreneurial system and make quick, sustainable changes that result in jobs, wealth and certainty. Through the WDB and Grovest we will be able to tap into corporate and government relationships and networks that will help Seed Engine reach deeper into the communities and sectors that need the most urgent support.”

Khanyile says that the WDB’s 25-year track record is aligned with the future vision of Seed Engine. “Our investment is likely to increase to 51% and as a women’s company, we have an appropriate bias towards empowering female entrepreneurs and being a meaningful active investor. The partnership serves both the business and social agenda of WDB.”

Rachelson says, “The BEE deals of the past are no longer relevant. We want to create genuine mechanisms to expand SA’s ‘missing middle’. There is no doubt, that the investment by a black-owned entity focused on impact investments will cement Seed Academy’s position in enterprise and supplier development in South Africa.

“A key focus of our work is to make sure that startups progress steadily into enterprises and become registered vendors that provide reliable products and services to the supply chains of public and private South African companies.

"The WDB's shift away from ordinary to highly impact and measurable investments fits with Seed’s culture of action and impact."

Says Khanyile, “We liked Seed Engine’s emphasis on black women and youth-owned businesses. We were impressed that their programmes have trained 600 entrepreneurs, created and supported 300 enterprises and an average of three jobs per enterprise. Seed Engine has touch points at every step of the way of the business life-cycle from startup through to sustainable SMEs and successful suppliers.”

Rachelson said Seed Engine was impressed that some 180 000 rural women had benefited from WDB Trust loans worth more than R400-million, 3000 women had received literacy and basic business skills training, and over 300 permanent jobs had been created by the WDB Group since inception.  

“Many people in South Africa were not raised in an entrepreneurial environment in which they were encouraged to take an idea and grow a business,” says Khanyile. "More than ever before, there is an urgency for young South Africans and female entrepreneurs in particular to be assisted in taking their ideas forward and build businesses. Our young people need jobs, and we need to help them create jobs for themselves, their families, and their communities."

Implementation of 2030 Agenda to be the focus at single largest forum on women and girls

16 Mar 2016
Implementation of  agenda to be the focus at single largest forum on women and girls

Press Release

UN Commission on the Status of Women to outline robust set of actions for translating ambitious development roadmap into reality for women and girls 

Date: 10 March 2016


Media Contacts: 

Oisika Chakrabarti, Ph: +1 646 781-4522; Email: oisika.chakrabarti[at]unwomen.org
Sharon Grobeisen, Ph: +1 646 781-4753; Email: sharon.grobeisen[at]unwomen.org
Zina Alam, Ph: +1 646-781-4783; Email: zina.alam[at]unwomen.org


(New York, 10 March)—Following a milestone year in international development in which world leaders endorsed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the 60th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will focus firmly on implementation of the ambitious agreement. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by UN Member States in September 2015 are a universal roadmap for people and planet, addressing the key challenges of the 21st century, such as poverty, inequality and climate change. Gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls is a goal in itself, and recognized as a central means to achieving the SDGs. Success depends on rigorous implementation.

The Commission is the single largest forum for Member States and other stakeholders to commit to new actions for advancement of women and their empowerment. This year’s CSW is the first after the adoption of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The session thus will build on the momentum garnered in September 2015 when, in conjunction with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, more than 90 governments answered UN Women’s call for action to “Step It Up for Gender Equality”. World leaders pledged measurable actions to tackle structural barriers and remaining challenges to the achievement of gender equality in their countries. Civil society and businesses leaders complemented these pledges committing to combat stereotypes and shift practices towards fostering greater equality and opportunity.

“This gathering of so many of the key partners in the implementation of Agenda 2030 makes this a crucial opportunity to combine our strengths and align decisively around the central issues for action,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

The priority theme for the 60th session will be women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development. Discussions by governments will focus on creating a conducive environment for gender-responsive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, through actions to ensure enabling laws and policies, solid institutional infrastructures, adequate financial resources, strengthening of participation mechanisms, and investment in sex-disaggregated data, to guide national action.

Research underlines the benefit of women’s empowerment and gender equality for societies everywhere: for instance, if women played an identical role to men in labour markets, as much as USD 28 trillion could be added to global annual GDP by 2025. When women are at the peace tables, their participation increases the probability of a peace agreement lasting at least two years by 20 per cent, and 35 per cent over 15 years. And a child born to a mother who can read is 50 per cent more likely to survive. Yet, global reviews undertaken in 2015, during the 20 years’ commemoration of the historic Beijing Conference, revealed while there has been progress on women’s rights and gender equality, it has not been enough. Today, only one in five parliamentarians is a woman and women continue to earn less, have fewer assets and bear the burden of unpaid work and care.

Violence against women continues to affect one in three women, making it one of the most widespread human rights violations. The Commission will evaluate progress in the implementation of its agreed conclusions of 2013, on ending violence against women and girls, a pandemic that also comes with enormous economic costs to society.

The high-level meeting from 14-24 March underlines the determination of governments and activists to move the needle on women’s rights and gender equality. This year over 1,000 NGOs have pre-registered more than 8,100 of their representatives for the meeting. More than 200 side events will be hosted on the UN premises by Member States and UN entities, many of them in collaboration with civil society, about 150 of them in the first week of CSW alone, alongside 450 parallel events by NGOs, in the vicinity of the UN. 


HIGHLIGHTS FOR MEDIA: [For press covering CSW60 at the UN Secretariat in New York, UN press accreditation is required. More information at: http://www.un.org/en/media/accreditation/ ]

  • Press Conference: Guests at the Noon Briefing: Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations and Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women Ambassador Antonio de Aguiar Patriota, and UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka will brief the press regarding CSW60 on 10 March, 12.20 p.m., approx., Room S-0237, UN Secretariat [Live  webcast]
  • Youth Forum at CSW60: Advancing 2030 Agenda – Empowered Young Women and Young Men as Partners in Achieving Gender Equality, organized by UN Women, Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Salvation Army, and UN Inter-agency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality, 11 March, 9.30 a.m.–6 p.m., and 12 March, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Conference Room 1, A, B, C, D [Live  webcast on 12 March]
  • Opening of the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 14 March, 10 a.m.–1 p.m., UN General Assembly [Live  webcast]
  • ‘A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness’, screening of Oscar-winning documentary film on ‘honour killings’, organized by UN Women and Mission of Pakistan, 15 March, 6.30–7.45m., Conference Room 1
  • Open Consultation on the work and deliberations of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, 16 March, 10-11.30 a.m., ECOSOC Chamber [Live  webcast]
  • High-level event on Gender Equality and Global Call to Action on Equal Pay, a two-part event with the first part being a high-level dialogue on gender equality; and the second part a moderated interview-style discussion with UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and key stakeholders on a global call to action on equal pay for work of equal value, organized by UN Women, 16 March, 12–1.30 p.m., ECOSOC Chamber [Live  webcast]
  • Achieving Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Humanitarian Action through the World Humanitarian Summit, organized by the Missions of Australia, Mexico, as well as ActionAid, Oxfam, OCHA and UN Women. 17 March at 3–4.15 p.m., Conference Room 11 [Live  webcast]
  • Launch of the Step It Up for Gender Equality Media Compact—Building on Experiences from the Media Landscape, organized by UN Women, 22 March, 3–4.15 p.m., Conference Room 11 [Live  webcast]
  • The Key to Economic Growth: Panelists include Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director, Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder, Chairwoman & CEO, Care.com, Ai-jen Poo, Co-Director, Caring Across Generations, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & CEO, New America, 23 March 8.30–10 a.m., Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, New York

Media Opportunities: Grassroots activists and women’s rights advocates are available for interviews. Short-list below, please contact media officers listed for details. 

Related links:

Events at the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, 14–24 March 2016

Official meetings of the Commission are listed here: http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw60-2016/official-meetings

Live webcasts: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/csw/webcasts; and http://webtv.un.org/

Key Official Sessions:

All the above will also be webcast live at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/csw/webcasts; and http://webtv.un.org/

Information on all official events available at: http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw60-2016/official-meetings

UN Women organized/co-sponsored events:

  • Youth Forum at CSW60: Advancing Agenda 2030 – Empowered Young Women and Young Men as Partners in Achieving Gender Equality, organized by UN Women, Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Salvation Army, and UN Inter-agency Network on Youth Development’s Working Group on Youth and Gender Equality, 11 March, 9.30 a.m.-6 p.m. and 12 March, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Conference Room 1, A, B, C, D [Live  webcast]
  • Realizing Rights for Women’s Health: The SG’s Global Strategy for Women, Children’s Adolescent’s Health (Every Women, Every Child, Every Where), organized by United Nations Executive Office of the Secretary-General (EOSG), 15 March, 1.15–2.30 p.m., Trusteeship Chamber
  • Monitoring the Implementation of SDGs from a Gender Perspective: Tools for Accountability, hosted by UN Women, 15 March, 3–4.15 p.m., Conference Room 11 [Live  webcast]
  • Transformative strategies to achieve Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment by 2030 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Organized by Missions of Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sweden and UN Women, 15 March, 3–4.15 p.m., Ex-Press Bar (General Assembly Building)
  • Women’s Empowerment Principles Annual Meeting “Business Partners for Gender Equality: Multipliers for Development”, organized by UN Global Compact and UN Women, 15 March, 3–6 p.m., Trusteeship Chamber. Contact: wepsevents@unglobalcompact.org. By invitation only. Details at http://weprinciples.org/Site/MediaInformation/
  • Financing gender equality and women’s empowerment: How to make a difference after the commitments taken in Addis Ababa, organized by Missions of Switzerland and Australia, UN DESA FfD Office, UN Women, 15 March, 4.45–6 p.m., Conference Room 11
  • Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, screening of Oscar-winning documentary film on ‘honour killings’, organized by UN Women and the Mission of Pakistan, 15 March, 6.30–7.45 p.m., Conference Room 1
  • Open Consultation on the work and deliberations of the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment, 16 March, 10–11.30 a.m., ECOSOC Chamber [Live  webcast]
  • High-level event on Gender Equality and Global Call to Action on Equal Pay, a two-part event with the first part being a high-level dialogue on gender equality; and the second part a moderated interview-style discussion with UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and key stakeholders on a global call to action on equal pay for work of equal value, organized by UN Women, 16 March, 12–30 p.m., ECOSOC Chamber [Live  webcast]
  • Faith and Gender Equality: Leaving no one Behind, organized by UN Women, Young Christian Association (YWCA), 16 March, 6.30 p.m.–45 p.m., Conference Room 1 [Live  webcast]
  • Habitat III Agenda and Gender Equality and Safe Public Spaces for Women and for All, organized by UN Women and UN-Habitat, 17 March, 1.15–2.30 p.m., Conference Room 1 [Live  webcast]
  • Advancing Gender Equality through Sports: 2030 Agenda—the contribution of sport to achieve gender equality and end violence against women and girls, organized by Mission of Brazil, UN Women, and International Olympic Committee (IOC), 17 March, 1.15 -2.30 p.m., Ex-Press Bar (General Assembly Building)
  • Achieving Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Humanitarian Action through the World Humanitarian Summit, organized by the Missions of Australia, Mexico, as well as ActionAid, Oxfam, OCHA and UN Women. 17 March at 3–4.15 p.m., Conference Room 11 [Live  webcast]
  • The role of parliaments in the implementation of commitments on gender equality and climate change, organized by Mission of Morocco, UN Women, Parliamentarians of Morocco, 18 March, 1.15–2.30 p.m., Conference Room B
  • How gender leads: innovation, perspective and leadership, organized by UN Women, UNDP, UNFPA, 18 March, 10–11.15 a.m., Conference Room A
  • Launch of the Step It Up for Gender Equality Media Compact—Building on Experiences from the Media Landscape, organized by UN Women, 22 March, 3–4.15 p.m., Conference Room 11 [Live  webcast]
  • “Women’s Resilience in Fragile States”, organized by UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality and the Mission of Japan, 22 March, 6.30–7.45 p.m., Conference Room 7
  • The Road from CSW60 to CIVICUS to Women Deliver to AWID: Strengthening Actions, organized by UN Women, Women Deliver and AWID, 23 March, 3–4.15 p.m., Ex-Press Bar (General Assembly Building)

Entire list of all official side events during CSW60: http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw60-2016/side-events/calendar-of-side-events; NGO-organized parallel events: http://www.ngocsw.org/ngo-csw-forum/ngo-parallel-events

UN Women senior officials will also speak at the following events:

  • NGO CSW Forum 60 Consultation Day, organized by NGO CSW, 13 March, 9.30 a.m. onwards, 92nd Street Y
  • Sharing the Care: How to recognize, reduce and revolutionize, Organized by Mission of Iceland with MenEngage and MenCare, 14 March, 1.15–2.30 p.m., Conference Room 11
  • Parliamentary day Focus on eliminating discriminatory laws, organized by IPU, 15 March, 10 a.m.– 6 p.m., ECOSOC Chamber
  • High-level side event: The elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls, organized by the European Union and the Missions of the Netherlands, Tunisia and Mexico, 15 March 1.15–2.30 p.m., Conference Room 8
  • High-level Ministerial Concertation on Ending Violence against Women as a follow-up to the Political Declaration and the Action Plan on VAW adopted by Francophone Ministers, organized by OIF, 15 March, 1.15–2.30 p.m., Conference room 12
  • Women and Inclusive Global Economic Growth: W20 Experience of Turkey, Organized by the Mission of Turkey, 16 March 6.30–7.45 p.m., Permanent Mission of Turkey
  • Advancing the Women’s Empowerment Agenda in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Region (OIC), organized by the OIC, 18 March, 10–11.30 a.m., Conference Room 12
  • Prevention Education in Action: Voices against Violence, organized by the Permanent Mission of Germany to the UN and World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, 21 March, 1.15–2.30 p.m., Conference Room A. Panelists include UN Women Deputy Executive Director, Lakshmi Puri, Political Coordinator of the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations, Thomas Schieb, and WAGGGS young women delegates.

  • The Key to Economic Growth—Panelists include Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director, Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder, Chairwoman & CEO, Care.com, Ai-jen Poo, Co-Director, Caring Across Generations, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & CEO, New America, 23 March 30-10 a.m., Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, New York

The following gender equality advocates are available for media interviews:

Ms. Tennille Amor 
Tennille Amor, from Trinidad and Tobago, is a creative writer, performer and activist. She is currently working with UN Women and is the co-founder of E.P.I.C. (Everyday People Initiating Change), an organization which drills clean water wells and contributes to community growth and development in the United Republic of Tanzania. Her debut album, “EVOLVE through LOVE,” will be released in the Spring of 2016, and includes the songs “Lion” and “I am a Girl.” Her work focuses on SDG 5 and she speaks English.

Ms. Patricia Munabi-Babiiha
Patricia Munabi-Babiiha, from Uganda, is the Executive Director of Forum for Women in Democracy, whose work focuses on women's political leadership in Africa, gender budgeting and mentoring for transformational leadership. Her work focuses on SDG 5 and she speaks English.

Ms. Maria Judite da Silva Balerio
Maria Judite da Silva Balerio, from Brazil, works in the indigenous community of Lagoa Quieta, in a municipality of Brazil, where she focuses on empowering indigenous youth and women, particularly survivors of domestic violence. She also works on political empowerment and sustainable development issues, and has been active since the age of 15 with the COAPIMA (Coordination of Organizations and joints of Indigenous Peoples of Maranhão), an indigenous organization representing the 11 indigenous peoples of the State of Maranhão. Her work focuses on SDG 5 and she speaks Portuguese.

Ms. Priscilla Magamba Busabono 
Priscilla Magamba Busabono, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a youth advocate for women’s rights and a prominent civil society activist in her community. In 2013, Busabono was invited to the World YWCA in Geneva, Switzerland to participate in efforts to advance the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), where she gave a speech focused on rape, violence, armed conflict and on the leadership of young women in building peace in the DRC. Her work focuses on SDGs 5 and 16, and she speaks English and French.

Prof. Heather Cameron
Heather Cameron, from Canada, is the founder of Boxgirls International and The Camp Group "Think Tank and Do Lab", and Assistant Professor of Inclusive Education at the Freie Universität Berlin. In 2010 she was honoured by the German Association of University Professors with the prize ‘University Professor of the Year’. In 2010 she was selected as an Ashoka Fellow by the Ashoka: Social Innovators for the Public. In May 2011 she received the Young Leaders Award from the BMW Herbert Quandt Foundation. As a social entrepreneur, Prof. Cameron works around the world for girls’ education and rights. She leads projects for refugee children in German cities, designs girls primary school leadership programmes in the townships of Cape Town and as an international gender and education expert for the German Development Cooperation, runs workshops and creates curriculum tools for the Ministry of Education in Afghanistan. Her work focuses on SDGs 4 and 5 and she speaks English.

Ms. Nandini Chami
Nandini Chami, from India, is a youth activist working on use of mobile technologies in governance. She is a Senior Research Associate for IT for Change, where we works on research projects in the areas of e-­governance and democracy, women's rights in the digital age and the political economy of ICTs for development. Her work focuses on SDG 5 and she speaks English.

Ms. Visaka Dharmadasa
Visaka Dharmadasa, from Sri Lanka, is the founder and Chair of the Association of War Affected Women and Parents of Servicemen Missing in Action. Her work focuses on the inclusion of women at all levels of peacebuilding and decision making. She was awarded the prestigious Humanitarian award for 2006 by Inter Action of Washington D.C. and in coordination with the “1000 Peace women across the globe” movement, she was nominated for a collective Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Her work focuses on SDG 5 and 16 and she speaksEnglish.

Ms. Lydia Alpízar Durán 
Lydia Alpízar Durán, is a Costa Rican/Mexican feminist activist based in Mexico City, and is the Executive Director of the Association of Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). Ms.  Durán is a sociologist by training and co-founder and advisor of the ELIGE Youth Network for Reproductive and Sexual Rights. She was a member of the International Council for Human Rights Policy. AWID is a global feminist membership organization and one of the most important spaces for women’s rights groups to engage in. Her work focuses on SDG 5 and she speaks English and Spanish.

Ms. Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda 
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, from Zimbabwe, is a trained human rights lawyer with extensive experience in conflict resolution and mediation. For some 20 years, she has been working on issues of women and children's human rights, with a special focus on crisis countries. Active in the women's movement, she has more specifically focused on issues of violence against women, peace with justice, property rights, sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV and AIDS. Her work focuses on SDG 5, and she speaks English.

Ms. Jeanette Suka Ila
Jeanette Suka Ila, from Papua New Guinea, works as a full-time peer educator, teaching young women and men in some of the country’s most isolated rural areas. She is also a youth advocate for community leadership focusing on sexual reproductive health rights for young people throughout PNG. Suka Ila has facilitated trainings in schools and communities on youth development and violence prevention, and mentors young women who face challenges particularly in regards to cultural and traditional taboos. Her work focuses on SDG 5 and she speaks English.

Ms. Rokeya Kabir
Rokeya Kabir, from Bangladesh, is the Executive Director and founder of Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS). BNPS is one of the leading women's organizations in Bangladesh that has served, since 1986, about 200,000 women directly. She is a front-line women and human rights activist in Bangladesh with more than 30 years of professional experience in the field of women's rights, human rights and the rights of minorities. As recognition of her work, she has been nominated as one of the "1,000 Women for Peace" for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2005. She frequently writes on national and international political and economic issues and has more than half a dozen books to her credit. Her works focuses on SDG goals 4 and 5, and she speaks English.

Ms. Ezgi Koçak 
Ezgi Koçak, from Turkey, is a seasoned youth activist who has been working in national and international women’s rights and LGBT movements for seven years. She has given consultancy to women's organizations internationally and has solid experience in reporting and monitoring human rights violations through the lens of gender equality by combining her academic and advocacy skills. Her work focuses on SDG 5 and she speaks English, Turkish and French.

Ms. Kate Lappin 
Kate Lappin, is the Regional Coordinator of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD). APWLD is a network of 200 women's rights organizations and activists working in 25 countries of Asia-Pacific, based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Kate has worked for 20 years in the promotion of women's rights. She is a member of UN Women’s Asia-Pacific Civil Society Advisory Committee, sits on the Executive Committee of the Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition and the coordinating committee of the Southeast Asian Women´s Caucus on ASEAN. Her work focuses on SDG 5, and she speaks English.

Dr. Crystal Lee
Dr. Crystal Lee is a Dine' (Navajo) woman from the United States, from the tribal clans of Tachii’nii (Red Running Into Water people), Tabaaha (Water’s Edge people), Tsenjikini (Cliff Dwellers people), and Kin I ichii’nii (Red House people). She was raised on the Navajo Reservation and Diné cultural knowledge and traditional life have strongly influenced her professional activities. Currently, she is working in collaboration with Indigenous peoples across the world to advance research and advocacy in the areas of sexual/reproductive health, health disparities, disease prevention, indigenous healing, cultural awareness and sustainability and education. Dr. Lee is a scientific health researcher at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, School of Community Health Sciences, Center for Health Disparities Research. Dr. Lee also founded and is the Executive Director of a non-profit organization, United Natives, that serves to help Native American youth in the spaces of leadership, community, education, health and culture. Former United States President Bill Clinton recognized Dr. Lee’s efforts to assist Native American youth through his Clinton Global Initiative. Her work focuses on SDGs 3 and 5 and she speaks English.

Ms. Monica Novillo
Monica Novillo, from Bolivia, is a women’s rights advocate with over 20 years of experience in advocating for gender equality. She is the Executive Director of the Bolivian civil society organization Coordinadora de la Mujer. Novillo focuses on developing advocacy strategies and proposals to advocate for legislative and public policy reforms on substantive issues relevant to women’s equality, as well as on women’s participation in law- and decision-making processes. Her work focuses on SDG 5 and she speaks English and Spanish.

Ms. Khalida Popal
Khalida Popal, an Afghani women’s rights activist working as a project coordinator with Cross Cultures Projects Association (CCPA) in Denmark, organizing women’s football activities, grass-roots football actives and seminars in Afghanistan. She also works with Hummel International as a project consultant and coordinator for the Afghanistan project. Before seeking and obtaining political asylum in Helsingør, Denmark, Ms. Popal was the Captain of the National Afghan women’s football team and Leader of Afghan Women’s Football Committee. Khalida is the main character in the Norwegian book “Heia Kabul!”, written by Anders Sømme Hammer. Her work focuses on SDG 5, and she speaks English, Dari/Farsi, Urdu and Danish.

Ms. Holly Ransom
Holly Ransom, from Australia, is the CEO of Emergent, a company specializing in the development of high-performing intergenerational workforces, leadership and social outcomes. Holly is renowned for generating innovative solutions to complex multi-stakeholder problems for corporations, governments and non-profit organizations, and for coaching and professionally mentoring leaders around the world. In 2012, she was the youngest person to be named in Australia’s ‘100 Most Influential Women’, and also became the world’s youngest-ever Rotary President. Her work with Rotary has played a key role in the global efforts to lift youth participation in the organization, more than doubling engagement in the last five years. Her work focuses on SDG 5, and she speaks English.

Ms. Nandita Shah
Nandita Shah, from India, is the co-director of Akshara, a not-for-profit women’s rights organization, and has over 30 years of experience strengthening women’s movements locally, nationally and internationally. Her expertise in building different public-private partnerships has led Akshara to institutionalized initiatives with police, transport authorities and local municipalities for creating gender-friendly cities for women. Her works focuses on SDGs 5 and 11 and she speaks English.

Ms. Jill Shenker
Jill Shenker, from the United States, has been with the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) since its founding. Prior to this, Jill was the coordinator of the Women's Collective of the San Francisco Day Labor Program, and has worked on connecting national campaigns to local organizing, and supporting movement-building collaborations. Her work focuses on SDG 5 and she speaks English.

Ms. Paninnguaq Steenholdt
Paninnguaq Steenholdt, from Greenlandic Denmark, is an indigenous female activist and youth advocate. She is a member of a student rights activist group that addresses the high rate of violence, abuse and suicide among youth in Greenland. As a board member and General Secretary of the only Greenlandic National Academic Students Organization, ’ILI ILI, she negotiates students’ rights with local politicians, and works on access to education for indigenous communities. Her work focuses on SDGs 4, 5 and 10, and she speaks Danish and English.

Ms. Olena Suslova
Olena Suslova, from Ukraine, founded the Women's Information Consultative Center in Kyiv, with the goal of creating a public discussion about gender issues in Ukrainian social and political life. She represented her organization at the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, and continues to promote women's empowerment through a range of activities. Her work focuses on SDG 5 and she speaks Ukrainian, English and Russian.

Ms. Louise Wellington
Louise Wellington is an Aboriginal Australian and indigenous female activist who has helped facilitate access to public services such as health and education for women, men, elderly and disabled indigenous people in remote communities throughout central Australia. Wellington has been involved with setting up the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance (NASTIWA) in Canberra, assisting the board of directors with membership, establishment and International Women’s Day projects that honour inspirational indigenous women. She is currently working as a marketing and business development manager in an indigenous-owned building and construction company that was set up to reduce reliance on government-funding and to enable sustainable living on homelands for Aboriginal people. Her works focuses on SDGs 5, 9 and 10 and she speaks English.

Ms. Teresa Zapeta
Teresa Zapeta is a Mayan indigenous woman from Guatemala, and has more than 15 years of work experience in advocacy for individual and collective rights of indigenous women and indigenous peoples, from NGOs, government agencies and international organizations.  Her work focuses on SDG 5 and she speaks English and Spanish.


WDBIH snaps up Woolworths shares

30 Dec 2015

WOMEN’S Development Bank Investment Holdings (WDBIH) has invested R500m into acquiring shares in Woolworths through a bookbuild process.

WDBIH signed a R100m cheque from its own cash resources and leveraged off its balance sheet by using some debt to top up.

The female-led and black-owned WDBIH said it had the appetite to take up more shares in Woolworths should the retailer pursue a black economic empowerment (BEE) transaction in the future.

Last month Woolworths said its staff had cashed out close to R2bn after selling shares following the maturity of the company’s BEE employee share ownership scheme that was initiated eight years ago.

To manage the exit of some staff efficiently, the retailer then initiated a bookbuild process.

WDBIH took advantage of the bookbuild and picked up about a quarter of the shares allocated in the process, WDBIH CEO Faith Khanyile told Business Day.

She said WDBIH took about 5-million shares out of about 20-million shares that were for sale to institutional investors.

"We have recently made an investment into Woollies. We are hoping that by participating in the bookbuild we can position ourselves for a future BEE deal that may come."

This is the second bookbuild WDBIH has taken advantage of this year. Earlier in the year, when the FirstRand empowerment deal paid out, WDBIH put in R100m of its own cash to participate in a bookbuild.

This means that so far this year WDBIH has invested R200m from its own cash resources in bookbuilds.

The 19-year-old WDBIH, which was formed to make a difference in the lives of rural women and communities, is owned by the WDB Trust whose trustees include businesswoman Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, former CEO of then Wooltru Group Colin Hall and former first lady of SA and the founder of the WDB Trust Zanele Mbeki.

So far WDBIH has total assets of just more than R5bn and a net asset value of close to R3bn. It counts among its listed investments FirstRand, Discovery, Bidvest, Ascendis Health and property company Safari.

Unlisted investments include Assupol, Masana Petroleum Solutions and Algoa FM.

"The objective is to increase our stakes in Ascendis and Safari," Ms Khanyile said.

She said WDBIH invested in Safari not just for commercial returns but because it is a property fund focused on townships. "We are an investment company with a conscience.

"We are not investing for the sake of it. We want to see how we can marry investing with commercial returns and social impact," Ms Khanyile said.

She added that WDBIH had distributed about R165m in dividends to the WDB Trust and these were used to champion women and community causes.

The WDB Trust has a charitable programme called Zenzele focused on rural households. In the programme the trust employs social workers who visit rural communities to identify basic services the communities may need.

The programme then connects the poor households with relevant state departments.

Going forward, WDBIH said it was looking to invest in mid-cap companies.