What happens when you invest in girls: Lerato’s story

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What one big idea should African leaders implement to harness the power of girls and create a better future for everyone?

A lot has been said about the importance of investing in girls and ensuring that they are not left behind. One question that has been coming up is what is the return on this investment.

Over the coming weeks we will showcase some of the amazing stories showing the impact investing in girls will have on our communities, countries, and the world at large.

Lerato Motsamai – Businesswoman

Lerato Motsamai is a mother, businesswoman, and social entrepreneur. “I am a passionate activist for the economic advancement of women and girls through my flagship, Girlignite Africa Academy (Girlignite).”  The non-profit organization is designed to empower teenage girls from underserved communities to awaken and influence Africa.

Backed by 15 years corporate experience in the petrochemical sector, she is the founder & CEO of Petrolink, a South African based manufacturing and distribution company. She is also a renowned, panelist, moderator and keynote speaker at numerous private and public-sector events.

Her journey as an entrepreneur has been widely covered in print, television, and digital media. She is a Spark International Change-maker, and 2016/17 Graca Machel Trust Women Advancing Africa Fellow and a Student Enterprise board member at the African Leadership Academy.

Lerato founded Girlignite Africa Academy in 2014 and uses education for social impact. “We are a youthful brand, not scared to try new things and defying convention for positive social change. We believe the future of transforming Africa lies in its youth. We created this platform for African teen girls from all walks of life, to come together to encourage and help each other grow and hold each other accountable, as they find purpose,” says Lerato

So far, 1500 girls between the ages of 15 and 19 from four South African provinces have completed the program. Some of the girls have gone on to establish their own social enterprises. This includes girls who collect and hire out 2nd-hand dance dresses, and one who collects sanitary pads and distributes to poor girls. They have also registered academic success demonstrated by girls who are studying Biotechnology. Clearly, the girls are not passive recipients of assistance, but leaders who use the skills that they develop at Girlignite Africa Academy to rebuild their communities, and create a better future for all.

For Lerato, empowering girls means stronger communities and economies:

“We need our daughters to find their purpose and believe in themselves so that they can play a significant role in society! I really believe that girls are a powerful catalyst for change and that every girl has the right to be in charge of her future. We are obliged to protect their wellbeing, because when they are educated, healthy and productive citizens, the entire population flourishes.”

Lerato was lucky to attend one the best all girls schools in Africa, which provided her with lots of opportunities. But she wants the same for every girl.

 “In this burgeoning technological era, girls around the world are being exposed to the advantages of studying subjects that stimulate reasoning and teach the type of thinking skills that 21st century adults are going to need. Learning to code empowers girls, boosts their creativity and confidence. If we want our girls to retain these traits into adulthood, a great option is to expose them to computer programming in their youth. Investing in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. We not only shortchange our nation by failing to improve the level of education for girls but we also deprive our young people of reaching their potential. This is the greatest loss.”

Asked what she would tell her younger self to inspire her she says, “I am driven by a deep appreciation that my life is not my own, but is for the service of God’s purposes on earth. What inspires me is the transformative potential of young people and their game-changing ideas. I would tell a younger me what I was taught at school – Service before self, God before all!”

Do you have a great idea about how we can get more women and girls to realise their dreams? We want to hear from you. Write to the Make Girls Count Competition.


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