Taking the Lead in One’s Own Empowerment

The realisation of one woman’s dream to develop and empower other young women was recognised when well-known Johannesburg-based actress, TV presenter, voice-over artist and business woman, Refiloe Seseane, was awarded The 2010 Inyathelo Youth in Philanthropy Award, today.  The Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards recognise South Africans whose personal contributions have made a sustainable contribution to communities in South Africa.

Founder of non-profit organisation 18twenty8, Seseane has created an exciting initiative that provides core life skills to young women between the ages of 18 and 28, through empowerment workshops and mentoring. It is also one of the few organisations in South Africa that is 100% led by young women who empower other young women.

“I realised there are many young girls who have no one to turn to for advice when it comes to their futures, not to mention very few good role models,” says Seseane. “There are many reasons for this, not least of which are the poor socio-economic environments they live in”.

“This hit home when one of my cousins came to me for advice as her mother was an alcoholic and had contracted HIV. She did not want to follow in her mother’s footsteps - she wanted to better herself.

“What inspired me about her is that she never saw her circumstances as a limit. All of the girls we deal with are encouraged to think like that. Anything is possible. But you need to take the lead, you need to do it for yourself.”

Putting aside her active role as a TV personality in soapies like Generations and Rhythm City, Seseane transferred her energy to focus on facilitating educational opportunities for young women. In so doing she has supported many programme participants with the development of life goals and career plans, and is providing support to those preparing for their first jobs.

One of Seseane’s main concerns is that too many girls buy into what she calls the “bling-bling” culture.

“They are waiting for their knight in shining armour to come and rescue them from their predicament. They dream about a rich man coming and whisking them away to a life of luxury. This Cinderella syndrome is reinforced through what they watch on TV, music videos and movies.”

18twenty8 specifically works to break this syndrome and to take the girls to a new level where they recognise that they must be the leaders of their own development.

“We teach them to see the bigger picture: don’t rely on sugar daddies. We make them realise that they need to take responsibility for their own lives and future. We encourage them to think that education is sexy, a degree is sexy!”

Although primarily working with women between 18 and 28, the organisation also addresses some that are younger as they also work with girls in grades 11 and 12 by facilitating workshops that enable them to set objectives for themselves.

Financial freedom, speech writing and public speaking and how to fund their education are some of the skills they are taught, while they are also helped to understand what is involved in the transition to Matric and to their first year in university, technikon or college and how to cope with their first job. Importantly, health and lifestyle issues such as sexual responsibility and unplanned pregnancies, HIV/Aids, breast cancer awareness, personal hygiene and exercise are also in the programme that prepares them for life.

Another essential element in the success of Seseane’s programme is the interaction these young girls have with the 18twenty8 Big Sister network. Educated, professional women, who are established in their respective careers, mentor and support the Little Sisters during the course of their studies.

For instance, those Little Sisters who would like to be doctors are paired with doctors, and those wanting to study to become engineers are paired with engineers and so on. This pairing gives the Little Sisters first-hand insight into their chosen careers. The Big Sisters also attend 18twenty8’s professional day workshops where Grade 11 and Grade 12 girls are exposed to their various professions and get the opportunity to ask questions and interact with these professional women.

Seseane practices what she preaches – education is key to her success and is her priority aside from her organisation.

“Many people only see me as an actress, but I am also an economist. I majored in economics (with a distinction) and finance in my BCom degree, have a post-graduate degree in Economics (honours) through UNISA, have a certificate in media and marketing strategies for NGOs and am pursuing the Management Advancement Programme at WITS Business School,” says Seseane.

“My aim is to have a PhD in economics. I hope that my success in education inspires our girls to aim for the stars and work towards getting it. Anything is possible, no matter who you are and where you are from.”

The 18twenty8 workshops have reached 753 high-potential girls in Grade 11 and Grade 12 at 11 high schools in Vosloorus, Daveyton, Wattville, Tembisa, Katlehong and Soweto.

Now in their fourth year, the Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards run on the basis of a public call for nominations, whereby nominees are nominated by their peers and members of the communities in which they work and by the non-profit organisations that they support. Nominations are made for a particular category such as Women in Philanthropy, Youth in Philanthropy, Community Philanthropy and Lifetime Achievement in Philanthropy.

For more information on the Inyathelo Philanthropy Awards, go to www.inyathelo.co.za or call Inyathelo -The South African Institute for Advancement on 021 465 6981.

For more information on 18twenty8, go to www.18twenty8.org or call 072 869 2416.


Issued by Quo Vadis Communications on behalf of Inyathelo - The South African Institute for Advancement.

Inyathelo - The South African Institute for Advancement is a world-recognised organisation dedicated to building a sustainable South African civil society.  Its core work is to advance social change by working with key institutions and non-profit organisations to ensure their long-term sustainability. This is done by developing the capacity of civil society to use private investment from such companies to better serve the community, whilst working with organisations to develop their resource mobilisation skills.  The Institute promotes social responsibility, personal philanthropy, voluntarism and self-reliance.

Media Contact:

Chantal Meugens, Quo Vadis Communications
Cell phone: 083 676 2294
Landline: 011 487 0026
E-mail: chantal@quo-vadis.co.za

Inyathelo Contact:

Amanda Bloch
Conference Co-ordinator, Inyathelo
Landline: 021 465 6981
E-mail: amanda@inyathelo.org.za

Date published: 
Tuesday, 16 November, 2010
Inyathelo - The South African Institute for Advancement

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