The saying goes, “Behind every successful man is a great woman.” Whether they are actresses, activists, politicians, engineers, teachers or stay-at-home moms, women are standing on their own as great figures. August is dedicated to celebrating women who enrich South Africa, like the ones listed below.

Thuli Madonsela
Thuli Madonsela has been South Africa’s public protector since 2009. She has fought to protect the constitution and to act in the interest of all South Africans.

According to an article titled “South Africa’s 30 Wonder Women” on, Madonsela sacrificed a scholarship at Harvard in order to help draft the country’s constitution in 1996.

She supports and promotes human rights and has placed herself in the line of fire in order to protect these rights, such as when she was threatened with arrest after performing an investigation on maladministration within the South African Police Service.

Natalie du Toit
Natalie du Toit won five gold medals in the 2004 Paralympic Games and was also the first amputee to qualify for the final of an able-bodied event when she qualified for the 800m freestyle swim at the Commonwealth Games.

Her left leg was amputated following a scooter accident in February 2001. She was only 17 years old at the time. Despite the accident, her focus remained on achieving swimming success.

Voted 48th in the Top 100 Great South Africans in 2004 by the South African Broadcasting Corporation, Du Toit has since received numerous awards and medals for her achievements.

Caster Semenya
Another South African sporting heroine and proud Tukkie, Caster Semenya is a middle-distance runner. She won a gold medal at the 2009 Athletic World Championships, a silver at the 2011 World Championships and another silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Besides being a fantastic athlete, Semenya is also an ambassador of South African poise, regarding how she reacted with dignity to questions raised about her gender.

Jane Alexander
Creator of the well-known artworkThe Butcher Boys, Jane Alexander is a South African artist whose works show the influence of living in a constantly evolving country. Her work has been featured in Jean Clair’s show Identita e Alterita (Identity and Alterity) in the Palazzo Grassi at the 1995 Venice Biennale.

Gill Marcus
With eight male predecessors, Gill Marcus made strides in the corporate world when she became the first woman to hold the title of governor of the South African Reserve Bank in July 2009. In addition to this, she was elected a member of parliament in 1994 and later also held the professorship of leadership and gender studies at the Gordon Institute of Business Science.

Katy Katopodis
Starting off as a reporter for Talk Radio 702 in 1997, Katy Katopodis worked her way up to become group-editor-in-chief at Primedia Broadcasting and news editor of 702 Eyewitness News. Her bestselling book I’m Missing News deals with the pressures a working mother may find when trying to balance a career and family life, especially when her career entails delivering the most important news to the world.

Sibongile Sambo
Featured in Forbes’ list of “The 20 Young Power Women in Africa 2013”, Sambo is the CEO and founder of SRS Aviation, the first black female-owned aviation company in South Africa. Some of Sambo’s accolades include being a winner of the Black Women in Business Awards in London 2006 and being named a Leader of Tomorrow by Fortune magazine in 2007.

These women are just a few of the many successful, independent and determined women of whom South Africa can proudly boast. However, there need not be a medal or award involved in order to realise the greatness of South African women.


Photo: Brad Donald

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