27 October 2006
British mogul Sir Richard Branson and American entrepreneur Sara Blakely have joined forces to help expand South Africa’s Women on the Move programme, which empowers young women to take control of their lives and to help build responses to poverty and HIV/Aids among their communities.
This week, Branson and Blakely launched a fund to give young women around the world the kind of opportunities they themselves had to be entrepreneurial and build successful futures.
On Thursday, they awarded the fund’s first grant of R1.5-million to South Africa’s Women on the Move programme, a four-year course offered by CIDA City Campus as part of its business degree.
Blakely donated a further R2.3-million from the Sara Blakely Foundation to send 278 young South African women to study at CIDA, South Africa’s almost free tertiary institution.
Women on the Move enables students to become mentors and peer educators, to reduce the impact of HIV/Aids in their home communities and, ultimately, to stem the number of orphans created by the pandemic.
The programme includes training – provided by SA Life College, loveLife and CIDA -on physical and emotional health, coaching and motivation, leadership and entrepreneurship. Specific modules deal with sexuality, abuse, reproductive health, nutrition and life planning.
Among other things, students learn to develop community responses to poverty – such as cultivating food gardens – and to provide straightforward sexual health information.
“Our aim is to support a new generation of young women to empower them to take control of their lives, free of HIV,” said Branson. “These women serve as a bridge between the life they come from to one of new possibilities for themselves and others.”
More than 600 students have embarked on the programme since it began in 2004, reaching out to many more with peer mentoring and support.
Some of the more experienced students will now give particular support to children who have, through the death or illness of their parents, become the heads of their households.
One of the beneficiaries of the programme, Philile Gumbi (19), said: “I love seeing people being successful because of the help I can offer them. Women on the Move has created light in other people’s lives and has developed me as a person.”
The programme has been funded from the outset by Virgin Unite – the charitable arm of the Virgin Group – Booz Allen, the Global Business Coalition on HIV/Aids and MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation.