Women Who Inspire Us


Women who inspire Feenix

To commemorate Women’s month, Feenix joins the nation in celebrating and reflecting the women who move and inspire us. From the young activist, Malala to Lwando’s grandmother, the women on this list are fierce, strong with a healthy dose of humour and all play a vital role in society. Through their struggles and triumphs, they epitomise our belief that communities benefit from empowering and educating women.

We hope you are as moved by the women on the list as we are.

America Ferrera | Actress & Activist

Who wouldn't crush on America Ferrera? She is a very successful actress and producer, she is real, she is curvy and she uses her platform for good. America is the first Latina to win an Emmy for Outstanding Actress, a founding member of the Time's Up campaign and in her break out role in Ugly Betty, her character wore glasses and braces the entire time.

If that isn't enough, ten years after dropping out of university, she returned to complete a double major in Theatre and International Relations. It seems to me that real women DO have curves.

"I didn't need my dream to be easy, I only needed it to be possible"

Funeka Montjane | Chief executive 

"Thinking of the woman who inspired me over the years a number of names come to mind. The one that stands out is Funeka Montjane. Funeka came from humble beginnings and through sheer grit and determination became one of the most successful leaders and powerhouses in the South African banking industry today. On a Facebook post Funeka writes, “5 Mommas and these women are all the makings of me

She has been a “Momma” for a number of individuals over the years and her passion for education and books has equipped her to inspire many individuals at all levels of society. A true leader, trendsetter and inspiration to me." 

I dream of living in a continent with far more dignity and prosperity and where women are not seen as other. But I just want to do my part to slightly move it forward, and by holding other women’s hands as well.”

Grandmother | Gogo & Superwoman

My granny raised me (her eldest grandchild), along with her children on very little. We often went to school without lunch, because there was nothing at home; but at lunchtime, she would bring us lunch.

We never knew how she did it. Even when there was no food, we would never sleep on an empty stomach. She is the one woman who made me respect women. I miss her almost every day. 

"Never wear your worries as make-up". Whenever I was sad, she would say this. The world must never know that I am going through a rough patch. 

Lisa Harper | Storyteller & Theological scholar

I came to know about Lisa Harper this year when I attended a Women's Conference at Hillsong Church. I remember not only being thoroughly entertained by this woman's sense of humour, but just floored at her authenticity, ability to say it like it is, disregard for stereotypes and amazing ability to tell her story of grief and pain in a way that left you inspired, motivated and ready to tell your own.

She did this exceptionally well in her book "Sacrament of Happy" which I devoured shortly after the conference.

Story-telling in the most authentic way is something we encourage our students to do on the daily. But finding that balance between your truth which could carry a taste of pain, and showcasing your resilience and future can be a tricky balance. So it was inspirational for me to see how she told her story so seemingly effortlessly. It inspired me to not only to be proud of my own story, but also on how to better coach others in the telling of their own.

Malala Yousafzai | Activist & Feminist

Malala Yousafzai is a woman who inspires me. I read her book "I am Malala" a few years ago and was in awe of her journey. She stood up for girls' education in Pakistan and as a result, was targeted and shot by the Taliban. Fortunately, she survived the horrific attack and did not give up on her mission. With her father, she established the Malala Fund which "ensures that every girl has the opportunity to achieve a future she chooses".

In addition to this, she has started studying Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Oxford. Malala inspires me because of her strength, determination, kindness, humbleness, and intellect. She fights for justice and does not give up despite all the challenges that have come her way.

“I tell my story not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls"

Mommy | Mother & Superwoman

When you're a mom and you lucky enough to have your own mother around, you start to appreciate more! She is my SUPERWOMAN! She inspires me to be the best version I can be as a mom, as a daughter and importantly as a woman. She wishes better for me than what she does for herself and her selfless love is contagious.

She is like my human guide on 'how to live life' and my Grandmother is that extra-plus gift I get with it all - A wise woman who shares her wisdom whenever I am blessed to be in her presence!

"If you learn to know someone, learn to love them"

My Mom | Mother & Role Model

She is resilient even in the face of adversity. Time and time again she puts the needs of her family and the well-being of her colleagues above her own, even if it means her own health is negatively affected.

She lives by the phrase "Do right by others but stay true to yourself" and she perfectly embodies this on a daily basis. The woman I am now and the woman I am growing into is largely possible because she has portrayed the meaning of strength, grace and just a little bit of crazy so life remains interesting.

My mother | International Trade Lawyer

My mother is the one of eight children, five of which are women. She is a resilient, hardworking and fun loving woman. She inspires me because I learnt about feminism from her. I learnt about going after your dreams no matter what from her, I learnt that it is ok to walk away from situations that are not conducive to your growth from her. I learnt the power of NO from her. I learnt about empathy and compassion from her.

She is my best friend and everyday the woman I become is because of her and what she has and continues to teach me, while also letting me go on my own journey of self-discovery. 

My mother and grandmother 

I am inspired by the strong women who have raised me to be a strong independent woman, who isn't afraid to speak her mind and stand up for herself and others in need. 

"When women support each other, incredible things happen."

Nomzamo Winifred Zanyiwe Madikizela Mandela | Activist & Mbokodo

She inspires me because of her resilience and the part she played in the ending of Apartheid-era in our country. Even though she was kept in solitary confinement, and was tortured and beaten, she stood firm in her beliefs.

"There is no longer anything I can fear. There is nothing the government has not done to me. There isn't any pain I haven't known."

Ouma Freda | Ouma & Educator

Ouma Freda studied to become a teacher. She was Primaria of her campus residence, sat on the University Council and was even head(lady) of the Bloemfontein Education College. Eloquent and determined!

"Never give up your place next to your man" (which to me translates to her willingness to submit to her circumstances being a female in those times, yet determined to keep her rank within those constraints)


Prof. Pumla Dineo Gqola |  Professor & Author 

Pumla is everything I aspire to be one day. A talented, brilliant, driven, outspoken woman of colour. In spite of academia being a male dominated field her work shines and transcends the boundaries of academia making it accessible and relatable to all.

She has taught me about feminism and what it means to operate as a woman in South Africa. She inspires me to one day pursue my Masters and PhD.

Through reading her work I have come to know that Pumla has a beautiful mind. Through meeting her at a Book festival years ago I have come to know that she has a kind heart too. 

Dr. Rethabile Mashale-Sonibare | Scholar & Director

I am inspired by Dr. Rethabile Mashale-Sonibare. With hindsight, she was not happy with the lack of mentorship she received from her community in Khayelitsha when she was young so she has made it her purpose in life to offer safe, affordable, quality education for girls in their communities. It all started with an idea, she first started an after school program in Khayelitsha where she, in 2018, founded an independent primary school for young girls, Molo Mhlaba.

There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

We firmly believe that building social capital and networks is vital in the opening up opportunities that the girls will access but also create for the next generation.”

Sho Madjozi | Rapper & Performer

To me, Sho Madjozi (Maya Wgerif) is the personification of the 'new South Africa' that we envisioned in the early 1990's. Her diverse background, music, fashion, persona is a clear example that our diversity is part of the beauty of our country.

"... the stories of hunting will remain weak unless the lion itself learns to speak..."

Surya Bonaly | Figure skater

Surya pursued her passion for figure skating and inspired thousands of people despite facing significant discrimination by the international figure skating system. A true pioneer of the sport, her courage, tenacity and grit inspire me to continue to be the best that I can be no matter the challenges.

I'd like my daughters to learn from her lessons and never stand down.

Tererai Trent, Scholar & Educator 

Tererai is a Zimbabwean born woman, who has achieved greatness through education despite the challenges that she faced when she was younger.

Tererai was married and had three children by the time she was 18. She was uneducated, living in rural Zimbabwe with an abusive husband. One day a woman from Heifer International visited her village and asked every woman about their greatest dream. Tererai said she wanted to go to America and get a bachelor's degree, a Master's degree, and eventually a PhD.  By the age of 44, Teterai received her Doctorate and had achieved all the things she had identified as her dreams. Dr. Tererai Trent is one of today’s most internationally recognised voices for quality education and women’s empowerment. Distinguished as Oprah Winfrey’s “All-Time Favourite Guest,” Tererai is a scholar, humanitarian, motivational speaker, educator, author, and founder of Tererai Trent International.

More often than not, we end up with narratives that others have created and shared about us. Reclaiming our voice not only helps to define who we are but gives us the strength to right the wrongs of our past.”

Your support of the Feenix #CapTheGap campaign can fulfil women's right to education.

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