Life trials inspired the dream, while growing up there were always funerals at home Click To Tweet

Sithembile Ndlovu is a qualified Child and Youth Care Practitioner and a young Social Entrepreneur from Dassenhoek in Kwa-Zulu Natal. She is a co-founder of Sithuthukile PreSchool and Eliny’ithuba NPO in KwaNdengezi near Pinetown. Sithembile is future-oriented and passionate about developing, restoring, advocating for as well as educating children and youth at risk.

She hopes to make the world a place where women and children are safe from sexual violence. This is because she herself has been a victim of sexual violence and has experienced some of the darkest moments of her life. This did not break her, instead it motivated her to help others who have gone through similar situations as well as ensure that the same doesn’t happen to others. 

Read about how she tirelessly works towards fighting new HIV infections, political liberty and advancing youth leadership skills by volunteering her time to a range of organisations.


Has helping the youth and children always been your dream?

While growing up I dreamed of being a psychologist, I always wanted to help people but I was not specific about the age group.

What inspired this dream?

Life trials inspired the dream while growing up there were always funerals at home. I was born in a family of six; my parents, myself and three siblings. Unfortunately, all my siblings passed away before I even turned 10 years old and from then onwards I became the only child with no brother or sister to help me through life.

In my early 20s I was sexually and violently abused and I almost lost my life. My life was falling apart and I was in and out of hospital throughout 2011. I was infected with TB and in June 2012 I lost my mother through diabetes. Life was difficult in a way that I had to be booked for counselling sessions at the Open Door Crisis Centre in Pinetown for a while. While attending these sessions I was introduced into a group of young girls who were going through similar situations.

In my early 20s I was sexually and violently abused and I almost lost my life. My life was falling apart and I was in and out of hospital throughout 2011. I was infected with TB and in June 2012 I lost my mother through diabetes. Life was difficult in a way that I had to be booked for counselling sessions at the Open Door Crisis Centre in Pinetown for a while. While attending these sessions I was introduced into a group of young girls who were going through similar situations.

After hearing their different stories week after week I knew I had to do something about it. It broke my heart to realise how much trauma children, youth, and women go through with all the abuse and inequality happening in South Africa. From then onwards I wanted to make a difference, to change lives and to advocate for the rights of women and children. I then decided to go back to University and study Child and Youth Development.

It broke my heart to realise how much trauma women go thru with the abuse & inequality in SA Click To Tweet

What would you like to see change in the world that would make the lives African woman better?

I would like to see a change in people’s perspective about the strength of a woman. Women are taken for granted in many spheres of life resulting in gender inequality. I would like to see female excellence rising all around the world, with no gender-based violence and cruelty against women and children. I would like to live in an Africa where the peace and the security of women is a priority for everyone.

Women are taken for granted in many spheres of life resulting in gender inequality @OwakhoNdlovu Click To Tweet

Tell me more about your involvement with Progressive Youth Africa, SADC youth network, and the Ethekwini Youth sector.

Progressive Youth Africa is championed by proactive youth in the pursuit of political liberty in Africa. it is present in all 54 countries in the African continent and each country has one ambassador who then acts as a President for their country platform. I was selected as an ambassador for South Africa in 2016 and my role is to assemble highly courageous youth capable of pioneering change for a prosperous South Africa. So far I have gathered 45 young great minds from different provinces in South Africa who are undertaking amazing initiatives in their respective communities.

We formed the SADC Youth Network during the YALI regional leadership centre program in South Africa in February 2016 with fellow YALI alumni with an aim to collaborate ideas to deal with social issues facing the youth in the Southern Africa region. We want to increase youth participation and representation at high-level meetings; to identify and bridge the gaps in policies and to allow the youth to participate in the formulation of policies, and to be a platform where we can discuss regional integration issues on both national and international levels. We have managed to influence more than 500 innovative young people in the Southern Africa region to join our network.

I joined the Ethekwini Youth Centre after the 21st International Aids conference in Durban by invitation. I am involved in the provincial youth initiative that encourages young people to work together in order to implement the resolutions of the conference to stop HIV transmission by 2030. Particularly in Kwa-Zulu Natal as we have the highest percentage of transmission of people below the age of 35.

What are your roles in these organisations?

I help youth-led organisations professionalise their work by sharing my expertise and experience. I assist in reviewing business plans, funding proposals and offer mentorship to those in need. In addition, I advise and advertise available opportunities to young people and enhance self-development, I also recommend them to potential employers.

SITHEMBILE NDLOVU

How did you come to be part of the MSALEAD fellowship programme?

That was God’s grace upon my life. I applied for the fellowship two days before the closing date and my application went through a panel of judges along with other applications and my name was on the list of the top 10 young social entrepreneurs.

Monash South Africa selected 10 youth-led projects that were impacting their communities for their first MSALEAD Social Entrepreneurs yearlong fellowship. We are the first generation of innovators and entrepreneurs to be introduced to Monash’s first formalised business incubator. We were trained in leadership development, project management, communications, and other topics. On the 8th of December 2016, Monash South Africa hosted an awards ceremony for us in recognition of our work.

How was your experience with the YALI leadership programme?

YALI was amazing, it is surprising a year has already passed since it happened. I learned a lot about myself through the programme and I learned so many things regarding Africa and its people. I met 130 young leaders from the SADC region together with the UNISA Graduate School of Business Leadership staff who gave us the warmest hospitality. We were given lessons on Responsible Leadership, Gender and HIV/AIDS.

I was in the Civic Leadership track for four weeks being lectured by different TMALI’s Professors and Doctors on topics such as the Millennium development goals, Sustainable developmental goals, Feminism, Philanthropy and the role of the youth in civic society just to mention a few. We had site visits to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, Gender Links, Southern Africa Trust and many other important places. I had a chance to network with a large number of substantial people and formed long-lasting partnerships and friendships. I really had a great experience at YALI I would do it again if given a chance.

How do you think your work with all these organisations has shaped you as a person?

I have grown intellectually and developed my people skills. I can think more rationally now as well as act in an ethical manner in any given situation. Finally, I’m able to appreciate diversity and I have gained emotional intelligence, entrepreneurship skills, and leadership skills.

What do you hope to achieve through your work in the next 5 years?

In the next 5 years, I’m hoping to have made an impact on children accessing education from Early Childhood Development to tertiary education while also encouraging entrepreneurship and scarce skills to eradicate poverty in our communities.

My passion lies in Early Childhood Development because the first seven years in an individual’s life are of paramount importance in sharpening the mind. My goal is to implement Sustainable Development Goal no.4 –Quality education on the highest level possible. One goal of the NDP states that “South Africa should have access to education and training of the highest quality” and it begins with a child.

What motivates you?

Working with young people motivates me on its own, I get unexplainable fulfillment when I see a smile on a child or young person’s face.

Plus seeing young people creating innovative solutions to our daily struggles in the hope to make this world a better place motivates and inspires me to continue doing social good.

No dream is too small or too big, just believe in yourself @OwakhoNdlovu Click To Tweet

Do you have any words of inspiration to young women that would like to get involved in social entrepreneurship?

Do not allow anybody to tell you that your dream is impossible; if you put your mind to it you can do it. No dream is too small or too big, you just need to believe in yourself then everything is possible. A successful Social Entrepreneur never stops learning.

You know what they say about being all work and no play, what do you do for fun?

I’m a big fan of poetry so for fun I attend poetry sessions. I also love nature so a good walk at the beach, park or a camp site is my kind of fun.


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