Mentorship programme helps girls to reach their full potential

Thandi Magqeleba with some of the young girls taking part in an Empress for Girls 'ME' Confidence Conference.
Thandi Magqeleba with some of the young girls taking part in an Empress for Girls 'ME' Confidence Conference.
Image: SUPPLIED

Striving to be the role model she herself needed while growing up, Komani-born Thandi Magqeleba has established a mentorship programme for girls in schools around East London.

Starting in 2017, Magqeleba's organisation, Empress for Girls, has provided girls from Grades 10-12 with support, training and empowerment.

“I was inspired to become the woman I needed when I was growing up,” Magqeleba said. 

“As a teenager I was alone, confused, lost and uninspired.

I grew up in a remote village where the highest achievement was to work for a retail store or become a security guard. Even though there’s nothing wrong with that, I knew there was more

“I grew up in a remote village where the highest achievement was to work for a retail store or become a security guard.

“Even though there’s nothing wrong with that, I knew there was more.

“I just needed to see it to believe and work for it,” Magqeleba, 33, who grew up in Lesseyton (Ndlovukazi) village with six siblings, said.

“I have taken this journey to mentor girls because I know who they are, as I have been where they are now.

“We cannot expect them to magically be successful without proper tools.”

Empress for Girls sees Magqeleba join forces with various partners and organisations to offer leadership training and workshops, awareness programmes, academic support,  self-defence classes and more.

“I started by working with 100 girls from different schools in the Gompo and Ziphunzane areas of East London,” Magqeleba said.

Today she has established a “girls' club” in five schools, including Ngwenyathi Public School and Greenpoint Secondary School.

“Empress on Top is a mentorship programme for girls; it focuses on their development as leaders and community builders.

“Before we started we did a baseline [assessment] to understand their background and where they come from, as this helps us structure a programme that speaks to their needs,” Magqeleba said.

She said the organisation focused on leadership development, academics, sexual health education, confidence, counselling and victim support.

“Our peer pressure and confidence classes run throughout the year, where we host talks and structure topics to deal with these issues.

“We also have an annual conference called the I am ME Confidence Conference,” Magqeleba said.

“We have partners with different entities, and are still looking for partnerships for our counselling and victim support, as we deal with rape and trauma cases.

“We also have a support group within each of the clubs.”

She said the leadership development workshops saw the young girls take the initiative and work in teams to lead community projects.

Magqeleba, who is the MD of Empress Training Institute, said she loved seeing young women supporting one another.

“The idea that they [the girls] mentor each other brings me so much joy.

“I have seen how the girls have changed in how they see the world and in their approach to it.

“They no longer determine their future based on where they come from. Their mindset is limitless and liberated; they know they can achieve anything if they work hard for it,” Magqeleba said.

“We share so much love and joy among each other. It is a sisterhood more than anything.”

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