Born to Succeed Women upskills job seekers

Sandiso Sibisi and several of her co-workers are volunteers for a project that teaches unemployed women life skills and how to find jobs.

born to succeed women sandiso sibisi
Sandiso Sibisi, who is passionate about education, founded Born to Succeed Women to curb unemployment among young women through mentorship, life skills and job seeking. (Melissa Javan)

Melissa Javan
Born to Succeed Women has taught life skills and job seeking to 150 unemployed women in the five years since it was established. Of them, 120 women are now employed. Sandiso Sibisi, a management consultant at Accenture Development Partnerships (ADP), a global practice within Accenture, is the founder of the programme.

Sibisi, who holds a BCom (Hons) in information systems from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, says the programme is open to young unemployed women who have passed Grade 12. They are assigned a mentor from the Women’s Forum of Accenture for 12 months. This helps the women to set goals and seek employment.

The programme started in Gauteng. Sibisi, a Play Your Part ambassador, said she had received requests from women who had not passed Grade 12 to join the programme, as well as requests from women in other provinces.

She said the initiative had recently launched the pilot of the mobile application Khweza, which gives people access to information relating to job hunting. Journalist Melissa Javan spoke to Sibisi about Born to Succeed Women.

Melissa Javan: What led to your founding the initiative Born to Succeed Women?
Sandiso Sibisi: Born to Succeed Women started five years ago. I grew up in a township, seeing a lot of women unemployed. I wanted to help them, but I didn’t know how. As I got older, I learned what the statistics said.

MJ: Where did you start?
SS: I watched people who had initiatives with the themes being women leadership and women empowerment. I replicated their model. [Through asking questions] I started to understand why women were unemployed; the human resources officer also gave me insight in it. I also found that there was readily available information about this.

MJ: How old are the women you help?
SS: They are women who are post-matric. So these are young women between 18 and 35 years old.

MJ: Where do you find these women?
SS: We get women through various existing non-governmental organisations and also get referrals from our Facebook and Twitter pages.

MJ: Did you do this on your own when you started?
SS: I started the initiative alone, and then we grew to team of three people. Women volunteer through Accenture. There is a full-time resource – someone who does our administration. There are six people on the team now.

MJ: How many women have you helped through Born to Succeed Women and how many now have jobs?
SS: A total of 150 have gone through the programme of whom 120 are employed. When I say employed, I mean through volunteering, learnerships, internship or permanently employed. We know they want a permanent job, because of the security, but for us the experience matters the most. It is important to start small.

MJ: In which sectors do the women find work?
SS: Mostly the IT sector; we have just started working in agriculture.

MJ: Tell us about the process of the Born to Succeed Women programme.
SS: It is a 12 month programme called a cohort. This is where the women are mentored by Accenture professional women. We also have workshops every second month and fun events once in a while. They get training in CV writing, interview skills, work ethics, financial management, communications and entrepreneurship.

MJ: Have any of the women become entrepreneurs following your programme?
SS: One of the women who went through the 2013 cohort has her own business in Alexandra, in Johannesburg. She started off in a chef-learnership. We had a partnership with Sun International, which gave her the work experience. She now owns a catering business.

MJ: You said in a radio interview that lack of knowledge was a reason why people could not find jobs. Do you have any advice on empowering oneself to gain knowledge.
SS: People underestimate what they can do with a smart phone. It can open so much to you. You can get qualified by doing free online courses. It can be an education game changer if you use your smart phone in a way that it is not just for Facebook and Twitter.

MJ: Do you only work in Gauteng?
SS: Our last intake in Gauteng was in 2015. We still do workshops there, but we’re no longer doing cohorts there. We found that there were a lot of organisations running programmes like this here in Gauteng. We have expanded to Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal and our workshops there focus on mentorship. Two of our members are based in KwaZulu-Natal. We also have people in Limpopo who mobilise people with whom we can work.

MJ: You’re a Play Your Part ambassador. Why do you think that every South African should play their role in society to make the country a better place?
SS: We cannot rely on the government alone to make a change. We have to be responsible citizens. This is our home and our future is here.

MJ: How do you feel about Born to Succeed Women?
SS: The little we have done has been life changing. You become humble because you realise how fortunate you are. Being fortunate means you have a certain privilege. You need to share what you have.

MJ: What are your highlights?
SS: The completion of the three cohorts in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Moving the initiative to Limpopo is also a highlight, because we are not based there. We are doing this out of our comfort zone. The project in Limpopo is called the Young Women in Sustainable Development Goal Women Leadership Programme.

Source: Born to Succeed Women, International Research and Exchanges Board Inc, and Accenture.

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