Wed Jul 14 13:16:00 UTC 2010


Three finalists in each of the five categories of the new Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year Award were announced today (Wednesday, 14 July 2010) in Johannesburg. 

These exceptional and visionary women have been selected from hundreds of entries in the Award which searched for women who have achieved in their own fields with the determination and foresight to make an impact on the future of fellow South Africans. 

Their achievements are wide ranging, the work they do is exceptional and is currently profiled in the media. The public are invited to vote for the women who they believe to be the most deserving of winning. Their voting will account for 30% of the final score although the judges’ decision will be final. (Visit for more information)

The finalists are: 

Corner Shop to Big Business Makers


Ms Maria Nthuseng Lephoto is the manager of the largest abattoir on the African continent. She has worked herself up through the ranks in a male-dominated industry to take charge of a multi-million operation producing large quantities of quality beef products to feed and nurture the nation now and in the future. The business Ms Lephoto runs is a benchmark of quality for the South African beef industry and continues to create many employment opportunities for the local community of Balfour. This single-mother of three looks back on an amazing career of 31 years with one company where with hard work, commitment and leadership she has worked her way to the top and now manages a workforce of several hundred. Ms Lephoto started her career as a packer aged 17 while finishing matric at night school and was soon promoted to various levels in different departments winning employee of the month awards month after month. She then joined management where she was in a number of senior positions before becoming abattoir manager. Other than managing this successful business, she has over the years actively reached out in her local community where she manages a project offering low cost housing and a stockvel for women. She also assists struggling employees with guidance, budgeting and mentoring. 


Ms Lucilla Booyzen is a stalwart of the South African Fashion Industry and the woman who launched South African Fashion Week (SAFW). It was the first independent showcase for the country’s fashion designers and has contributed substantially to the growth and future of the South African fashion industry locally and abroad. She has developed a distinctive South African design ethos and culture through SA Fashion Week, which now also incorporates a number of initiatives to encourage skills transfer, foster new partnerships and support empowerment. SA Fashion Week is presented twice a year in Johannesburg and has created a platform for fashion designers to show their collections and network with the media, the industry and their clients. It includes an Exhibition and a Seminar where the focus is on business development and transferral of skills. She has also introduced a SA Fashion Week mentorship programme and Fashion Fusion. The latter is supported by the Department of Arts and Culture and has since inception six years ago, expanded to all nine provinces involving more than 1000 crafters working with top designers to develop contemporary crafting components collaboratively to produce design-lead and uniquely South African products. Her contribution to South African Fashion is unrivalled and she continues to grow opportunities with her vision and leadership for the future of this industry in the country. 


Ms Brenda Horne-Ferreira founded the first ever public-private membership organisation, the Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative (MCLI) as a Sec.21 non-profit organisation through which the constraints of the Maputo Development Corridor is addressed. MCLI has more than 170 members and corporate partners and is a grouping of infrastructure investors, service providers and users focused on the promotion and further development of the Maputo Corridor. It supports an effective transport corridor for future growth and development in the region as well as creating jobs and ultimately a better life for the people of South Africa and further afield. It is the brainchild of Ms Horne-Ferreira who seven years ago managed to put together this well coordinated multilateral, multi stakeholder institutional framework which has become a landmark for the continent. In an environment of many challenges and setbacks Ms Horne-Ferreira got private sector users and service providers in South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland to work together to ensure the corridor becomes the first choice for the regions importers and exporters. She also solicited strong political support and Government cooperation. The level of support MCLI receives is the result of Ms Horne-Ferreira’s strong leadership. She has ensured excellent corporate governance with clean audits. 

Good Neighbours 


Ms Colleen Naidoo is a mother who has opened her heart and house over the past 20 years to give a home and a future to hundreds of abandoned, abused and neglected children. The work she has been doing and continues to do is a huge investment in the future generation of South Africa. From a very young age Ms Naidoo has reached out to the vulnerable in the Beacon Valley community in Mitchell’s Plain where unemployment is high and the community is riddled with the social problems of crime, gangster activity and drugs. It is here where she has overcome a troubled childhood been a victim of sexual abuse to establish Colleen’s Place of Hope. She started from humble beginnings in 1990 to give a home to children from desperate circumstances arriving on her doorstep via the police or the community. Mostly undernourished, traumatised and in need of medical care and many infected with HIV/Aids these children arrived at Colleen’s Place of Hope to find love, comfort and safety. As an Emergency Foster Parent she gained the trust of the children through patient dedication and rebuilding their self-esteem. Ms Naidoo and her husband, Farrel, have always carried most of the financial responsibility of giving a safe haven and future to these children. They have only received a small grant from Government. Ms Naidoo has always instilled a sense of pride and belonging in the children that came to her saying no matter what your circumstances are, you can triumph over it. 


Ms Eunice Patiwe is the eyes, ears and hope of her community in their desperate fight against crime and has set a number of programmes and processes in place for them which other communities in South Africa can emulate to encourage individuals to fight crime and violence on all fronts to secure a better future for South Africa. 
It all started when she took a stance against crime after the shack that was her home in the former New Flats squatter camp burned down and Ms Patiwe had to move into a room in Dura Hostel in Zone 16 in Langa. Since then she has fought crime and all those things that lead to it with dedication and strength of character. 
Ms Patiwe assessed the situation and took action on a number of fronts in this troubled community where people are mugged, stabbed and raped mostly over weekends and near hostels. Her overall campaign was to obtain the right tools to help everybody fight crime. Her action against crime has earned Ms Patiwe the respect of the Langa community. Young and old are proud of the work she has done and is still doing. They are thankful that she has taken the lead to rid the community of crime and fondly refer to her as the “Police Lady.” 


Ms Lesley Ann van Selm founded the Khulisa Crime Prevention Initiative 13 years ago using African stories to instil morals among offenders. Today Khulisa is a successful Section 21 (not-for-profit) company making a unique contribution to a safer South Africa now and in the future. Fuelled by her passion for working with marginalised people and armed only with her marketing expertise, experience in building companies for a new South Africa and a genuine belief in the importance of inter-cultural dialogue Ms Van Selm established Kulisa. Here she developed the concept of African stories for morals into a series of crime prevention and community development interventions aimed at offenders in prisons, ex-offenders and at-risk youth and vulnerable children in communities to restore their self esteem, prevent crime and reduce recidivism, make restitution, and offer socially responsible alternatives to gangs, drugs and crime. Those affected by crime are also included to help them overcome hurt, anger and reconcile with offenders who wished to make amends. Ms Van Selm built a strong team of people of whom 94% are women to manage the company where the cycle of crime is understood and programmes are targeted to address key issues and problems with deep cultural roots. Thousands of South Africans have turned their lives around as a result of their involvement with Khulisa. 



Ms Cwengi Myeni is a nursing sister who recognised the need to support the grandmothers of the Valley of a Thousand Hills in KwaZulu Natal. As a result of the devastation of HIV/Aids these elderly women have been left to raise their grandchildren. They bury their children with broken hearts and then have the overwhelming task of bringing up the next generation with little or no economic and social resources leaving many feeling isolated. It all started when Ms Myeni who spent 35 years working in a clinical capacity at various clinics and for the past seven years at the Hillcrest Aids Centre Trust was invited by the Stephen Lewis Foundation to present the plight of these grandmothers at the 2006 World Aids Conference in Toronto. She presented a model for Grandmother Support Groups with the aim to develop a whole new sense of empowerment for these grandmothers. She received overwhelming support and on her return she started the project. It has grown today to at least 15 groups with more than 500 grannies making the lives and future of thousands of HIV/Aids orphans better. The groups band the lonely and grieving grandmothers together to develop income-generating projects. They are taught to turn problems into challenges and as they work together they combat loneliness by sharing stories and making time for friendship. 


Ms Jackie Gallagher is the Founder and General Manager of the Sparrow Schools Educational Trust which started 20 years ago after she placed a small newspaper advertisement resulting in her teaching 4 learners on Saturdays in a church hall in Joubert Park in Johannesburg. The initiative grew to a well-respected educational organisation that has helped thousands of children prejudiced by the educational policies of the Apartheid Government to better their education and skills for a brighter future. Today the Sparrow Schools and Educational Trust are two interconnected projects catering for around 600 children and youth from impoverished communities at a time, employing 82 staff members at the Foundation School in Melville and the Sparrow Combined Vocational Training Centre in Sophiatown. Ms Gallagher took action realising that even though the Apartheid education policies were dismantled no formal programme existed for children from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them to slot into mainstream schools. For many it was a futile victory when schools opened to all races as they were never going to be able to fit in and would once again be left out in the cold. Ms Gallagher’s initiative gave them the lifeline they needed for quality, specialized and affordable education that would give them the way out of a life of poverty and non-achievement. 


Ms Thabi Shange, born in rural South Africa and having first-hand experience of the suffering and poverty that especially women to go through, has devoted her life for more than 30 years to rural development to better the future for all South Africans. Her extensive understanding of the country’s specific socio-political and economic situation has enabled her to render professional services to improve the rural South African society. Over the years she has developed, capacitated and mentored a number of rural associations to engage in socio-economic infrastructure and capital formation for self-reliance. Her primary objective in development education is to enable rural communities to disentangle themselves from the generational gross poverty cycle, dependency and entitlement syndrome and take responsibility for contributing towards self determining, self managing and self reliance. She is an initiator who has founded and co-founded a number of community based and women organisations including the Philisisizwe group of entities. Others in which she has been involved include the Nyandeni Association, Intuthuko yaMangwane, Emvokweni Development Trust (land reform) Nonsobo Development Trust (mining community)and many others in KwaZulu Natal. Ms Shange has assisted in the development of trading companies for these rural associations so that they could become part of the mainstream business community to achieve self-determination, self-reliance and sustainability. 

Youth Movers 


Ms Bulelwa Hewitt who escaped a life of physical and sexual abuse scavenging the rubbish dumps of East London with sheer determination has co-founded the first South African street children organisation run by a fusion of former street children and experienced social workers. Since starting Umthombo Street Children Action, a Sec.21 non-profit organization, in Durban six years ago this 29-year-old former street child has transformed the lives of thousands of children living on the streets destined for a life of crime and has given them hope for their future. With Umthombo Street Children Action, Ms Hewitt has established an internationally recognised model to successfully rescue street children from the street and re-integrate them into society where they can regain self-respect. The model Ms Hewitt has established is based on dignity and respect in which street children can reclaim their lost identity. Street children at Umthombo are coached back into society with understanding, love and hope of a better life freed from the streets. The vision is that of a life where they gain acceptance as a human beings, a sense of belonging and in which it is possible to go home and have a warm and comfortable bed, food and the respect of other individuals. 


Ms Khanyisile Motsa founded the Berea-Hillbrow Home of Hope ten years ago and has since touched the lives of more than 8 000 street children who have had the opportunity to get their childhood back and have the prospect of becoming responsible citizens shaping the future of South Africa. She has used her indigenous knowledge with great success to get the project off the ground and then applied a strategy of firstly identifying the street children, mostly girls who have been exploited on the streets of Hillbrow, Berea and the Inner City of Johannesburg. 
The first challenge has always been to win their confidence to be able to withdraw them from the streets. Then to offer them a safe environment in which the healing process can start. After a period of nurturing and rehabilitation they are given the opportunity to go to formal and informal education which is the foundation of a successful adulthood. Employment opportunities are explored and they also have the opportunity to re-unite with their families. Ms Motsa has also importantly formed support and peer groups to monitor and support the street girls who in many instances were forced into prostitution on the streets by drug lords and pimps or have been victims of child labour and trafficking. Thousands of these street girls have had their dignity restored in the Berea-Hillbrow Home of Hope. They have truly been given a second chance in life. 


Ms Jacqui Michael heads two non-Government organisations where she works relentlessly to create a better life for many troubled children and youth at risk by building the capacity of staff members and the community to support strong family, cultural and social values for an ethical and responsible future South Africa. As Director of the Johannesburg Parent and Child Counselling Centre and Director of the Child (JPCCC) and Youth Care Agency for Development (CYCAD) she manages and initiates cross-cultural projects, which impact on systems which protect and develop children and families at risk. The driving principle of her work is that every child has a right to have a family in whatever form, and the ultimate goal is that children are kept out of institutions wherever possible and given the benefit of parenting and family. 
Ms Michael believes that every child deserves a chance in life and at these two organisations Ms Michael strives to make sure that whoever impacts on these children and families at risk has the right skills and training to do this appropriately and professionally. It is imperative for her that the organisations she leads have an appreciation for the economic and environmental struggles the youth are facing and their inherent need to belong, gain independence, master and acquire skills and learn how in turn to help others. 

Health Care-Givers


Sister Esme Singleton is a professional nurse who has improved the quality of life of hundreds of people infected or affected by HIV/AIDS for the past three years in the rural town of Molteno, part of the smallest municipality in the Eastern Cape, Inkwanca. The work done by Ms Singleton and her team at the Molteno Clinic is an example of how a well-functioning healthcare facility can bring strategic solutions and relief not only now but in the future in the fight against the HIV/AIDS pandemic. 
The community in which she works has an unemployment rate of over 90%. It is a poverty-stricken area where social problems such as multiple, concurrent partners and alcohol abuse is rife. The scale of HIV/Aids infection is staggering and telling of why the fight against this disease must be a national priority. Three years ago only 30 patients in Molteno hospital were on Anti-Retroviral (ARV) treatment and adherence to treatment was low but today 551 patients are on the Molteno Clinic programme and their lives has dramatically improved. It has brought hope to the community. Ms Singleton and her team of a doctor, a pharmacist, councillors and nurse administers started the project in 2007 and have implemented the rollout and continuation of HIV/Aids treatment with huge success. 


Ms Frances Hartley is a grandmother who started work as a domestic worker and in her late thirties moved on to work in a clothing factory where as a shop steward she devoted her life to help and better the circumstances and future of her fellow workers after she saw the devastation of the HIV/Aids pandemic. Ms Hartley worked diligently to first educate herself about the illness, gender equality, labour and chronic diseases before she went out to teach other workers how they can prevent getting infected, help themselves and stop the devastation of this disease to the nation and its future. Over many years she reached out to thousands of workers associated with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu). She single-handedly raised the level of consciousness of many Cosatu activists to understand the need for more deliberate action in responding to the disease and played a central role in training and mentoring others. Ms Hartley was and continues to be an inspiration to the working class people as a working class mom whose husband died at an early age and who had to raise her children on her own while working in the clothing company and then went on to campaign HIV/AIDS to help change the destiny of workers. 


Sister Jane Munyadziwa Dzebu is a dedicated professional nurse who has rekindled hope for healing while delivering world-class and pioneering nursing care for women who are treated for gynaecological cancers at the Charlotte Maxeke-Johannesburg Hospital. She heads the gynaecology cold case intake ward, Ward 196, at this state hospital which offers expertise and a multi-disciplinary approach as a tertiary service to patients with complex conditions which can’t be treated elsewhere. Her work in this ward is an example of how South Africa’s health facilities can be restored to formidable levels in the public sector with professionals (nurse practitioners and medical practitioners) backing their profession in deeds and action.  Ward 196 is a model of nursing care where exceptional standards are maintained and highly motivated staff work under the leadership of Sr Dzebu. She mentors and teaches those working with her and senior students from all over the SADC region, who also receive medical exposure from the work done in this ward. Sr Dzebu has worked hard and obtained a Master‘s Degree in Nursing Science from UNISA to give total care to the patients irrespective of circumstances. She imparts this knowledge and practical skills daily. Her handling of post-operative complications is excellent and medical staff frequently turns to her for advice and guidance on caring for wounds. 

The Award culminates in a spectacular gala evening in July 2010 at Emperors Palace in Gauteng to announce the winners. This dazzling event will be broadcast during prime time on Monday, 9 August 2010 on M-Net.

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