The power of humble and collective servant leadership”

“SAWID is the most independently networked organisation of women with the ability to coalesce women in all spheres…”

I have known about SAWID for some time, but I have only worked with SAWID for the past 6 years. I worked with the founder of SAWID. Zanele Mbeki, prior to my time at UN Women, and I therefore knew that she was the founding patron of SAWID.

The one thing that I have come to understand is that SAWID is a network of women and a network of women’s organisations that is far-reaching and very effective in the mobilization of women in multiple important and impactful areas. For instance with the need for urgent Covid responses, SAWID was a natural partner to explore and reach women in need everywhere, and I worked closely with the late SAWID Trustee Dr. Vuyo Mahlati to plan and plot the Vulnerability and Indigence Research Study, which is concerned especially with the identification and provision of basic needs.

For me the main impact of SAWID is its holistic and systemic approach. This was evidenced in the multi-dimensional study that UN Women supported, to ensure that any future crisis of food that emerged form COVID would be addressed in a much more systemic and sustainable, multi -dimensional manner, with a deep understanding of the intersectional challenges of women. This deep understanding of the systemic challenges facing women allowed SAWID to focus on and research a multi-dimensional response.

The important thing for me is that SAWID is the most independently networked organisation of women with the ability to coalesce women in all spheres. In our work with SAWID on various projects, SAWID was able to leverage this network to ensure the voice and participation of diverse women to respond to the 3 Gender Based Violence bills, to make applications for marginalised women in rural areas to access farms on state land, and provide the input of diverse groups, including traditional leaders and the Transsexual community, on issues like the Single Marriage Statute, in this way ensuring that women and communities who would not otherwise be considered, would be included in land applications and submissions to Parliament.

SAWID participated with UN Women on various policy processes, including the submission on the three GBV bills, applications for farms on state land, input of women into the Preferential Procurement Bill, and the Land Expropriation Without Compensation Bill.

“What I have learned from SAWID is the power of humble, ethical and collective leadership. For instance, this humble servant leadership is present in both SAWID and AFWID, and I will never forget when I went AFWID, and I asked Naledi the CEO of the ZMDT, where shall I sit, and she said simply, anywhere. What struck me is that I could just be free and sit anywhere and wow, and participate because i am a women, and not because I was occupying an important position at the UN. In the end I went to sit at the back and who was sitting there, but Mam Zanele, the founder of these two networking organisations. There is no other organisation that so clearly illustrates what servant leadership is.”

And because of these reasons, UN Women was very fortunate to partner with SAWID in implementing the Generation Equality Multi Stakeholder Forum that ensured the effective participation of all relevant sectors, including the public and the private sectors, and one outcome of that was the Women’s Economic assembly (WECOINA).

The partnership of SAWID and UN Women also allowed the successful launch of the African Women Leaders Network, at UNISA, on 18 November 2021, leveraging on a partnership we both share with UNISA. This allowed me as Multi-Country Representative to leave UN Women on a high note at the end of my term, having succeeded in implementing a series of important networking events for South African Women, with the support of SAWID.