Women must be included in the economy, says activist

Zikhona Madubela, who is a community activist, motivational speaker and social entrepreneur from Khayelitsha, believes that there is still a lot that needs to be done in empowering women.

Women’s Day should be celebrated in a way that empowers women’s businesses and initiatives throughout the month of August.

So says Zikhona Madubela, who is a community activist, motivational speaker and social entrepreneur from Khayelitsha.

Ms Madubela runs Side Street Bakery from her home and is part of an organisation called Arts Beat Crime, which runs after-school programmes for young people with the aim of keeping them occupied.

Zikhona Madubela, co-founder of Side Street Bakery, believes there is still a lack of inclusion of women in the economy.

Ms Madubela also runs a soup kitchen in her community and believes that this month should be used to support businesses and initiatives owned and controlled by women as that would play a vital role in contributing to women economic empowerment.

The 34-year-old is currently an ambassador for the United Nations in South Africa through a campaign called Zwakala: Do It For You, which aims to encourage young people to wear masks and protect themselves against Covid-19.

Ms Madubela said Women’s Day has become just another ordinary day and it does not leave any lasting impact on women as it is just a talk show praising women and nothing else.

She said without inclusion of women in business, education and in policy-making structures, the country would never be able to solve some of its pressing issues and create a vibrant and prosperous future.

She challenged government and the private sector to empower women with all the necessary tools and skills.

But she applauded women who do not let the endless obstacles hinder them from pursuing their dreams.

However, she also expressed her concern about young women who are not confident about themselves and do not know who they are as that creates a room for someone else to define them.

She expressed her sadness about the high levels of unemployment and said it pains her that young girls from rural areas have to use socks and toilet paper because they do not have sanitary towels.

“I believe that where your pain is, is where you are called to help. I know women who are compassionate, who have integrity and are passionate about community upliftment. I want to see women in a position where they can influence change.

“It pains me after years of democracy women sometimes have to offer sex to be employed. It pains me that we are still talking about lack of women empowerment.

“It pains me that there is lack of women economic empowerment. It pains me that young women are not talking about ways of creating wealth and businesses but instead have much to say about partying,” she said.

Ms Madubela said it is time that they create conversations about creating platforms for women empowerment and opportunities.

Talking about herself, she said she grew up in the Eastern Cape in a business-orientated family where her grandfather was business person.

She believes that this where her entrepreneurship spirit was ingrained into her while she was young.

After high school she enrolled at Cape Peninsula University of Technology for an IT diploma but in 2006 she dropped out in her second year. She then worked for various companies in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

In 2015, tragedy struck when a spinal infection left her in a wheelchair for four months.

The fact that she could not do anything played a vital role in igniting her entrepreneurship spirit as she had time to think critically about her future.

She said she was unemployed at the time as she was nursing her infection and decided that when she is healed she would start a business.

As they say, the rest is history. As she concluded her interview with Vukani, Ms Madubela urged young women to be brave and know that no one remembers cowards.