Sandiso Sibisi: Innovation Specialist and Women's Education and Employment Activist
In my view, equal rights, equal opportunities for both men and women, in practical terms is about; equal opportunity for girls to go to school and get educated, the need for equal participation of women in the economy, the right to quality healthcare and freedom from violence.
Date: Friday, March 13, 2020
More than half of South Africa’s youth are unemployed. Thousands of young bright minds are not contributing to the economy or continuing with their education and the majority are young women. Creating economic opportunities for young women could lead to the decline in unemployment and subsequently poverty. We identify young women who have limited resources or social capital and are in search of work and put them through a work readiness programme which increases their chances or permanent employment. We focus on economic participation of women and we do what it takes to get women participating in the economy, either through education by providing bursaries (study grants) and learning opportunities for unemployed women or through employment market access, including mentorship and bridging the gap between youth and employers and advocating for young people to be considered as employees.
I work in a male dominated sector: technology and innovation. Often women-owned start-ups are not at the forefront of this discipline. I often have to ask the tough questions: How many women start-ups are we working with? How many have we contacted? Often the teams give me a blank face, because nobody has thought about the gender inclusion aspect. I have to force myself onto decision-making tables by asking the tough questions, and my tenacity and inquisitive nature affords me the opportunity to take a seat. We have helped over 150 women obtain employment and trained, mentored or supported over 300 young women through our various programmes.
Young people need to remain resilient and continue to pull up a chair at the table even when no seat has been provided for them. We are the most powerful young generation that has ever lived, not just in the number of young people alive globally when compared to older populations, but we also have digital tools available to us, exponentiating our impact. We also need to take advantage of strategic partnerships to meet our goals - let’s stop working on initiatives in silos. Let’s collaborate and form partnerships that are mutually beneficial, this will allow our initiatives to be more scalable.