A Junior Civil Engineer at the global engineering and infrastructure advisory company, Aurecon, has been selected for the Zanele Mbeki Fellowship’s inaugural class.

The initiative will see Nothando Khumalo, and 24 other young African women leaders embark on a part-time training programme, which will include seminars, immersive activities and in-person modules.

Here the fellows will be able to interact with industry experts, academics, activists and leaders on a variety of topics.

The programme has been co-created in partnership with Duke Corporate Education (Duke CE) South Africa, an affiliate with Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

The Fellowship selection criteria included participants demonstrating leadership qualities, professional skill and a record of public service in the community.

Moving women forward

Khumalo completed her BSC in Civil Engineering and her Master’s degree at the University of Cape Town before completing a second Masters of Economics and Management in China Studies, in June 2017, at the Yenching Academy of Peking University in Beijing.

At Aurecon, she is involved in transport and traffic engineering projects, and she was a pivotal part of Aurecon’s The Great Commission, which is a people-centred housing strategy that helps Aurecon staff enter the housing market sooner and without the restriction of affordability barriers.

The guiding pillars of the Zanele Mbeki Fellowship are Knowledge, Self, Community, Leadership, and Feminist & Development Ideology.

“The Zanele Mbeki fellowship bears the promise of being a very instrumental part of my journey and I’m looking forward to being exposed to people from a broad spectrum of industries. The guiding principle for the fellowship is ‘to cultivate and support a new generation of feminist leaders on the continent’.

“It promises the centre-stage for such conversations and I want to be at the epicentre of this movement.

Women empowerment

Wathint’ abafazi, wathint’ imbokodo! These words had significant relevance in 1956, after 20 000 women from all over South Africa marched to the Union Buildings in protest of passed laws. The phrase still carries the same relevance now.

“This powerful statement was the beginning of the emergence of phenomenal women,” said Khumalo.

Khumalo said great women were long there before the march, but that the historic event, and era, ensured that the names of women no longer escaped history’s memory.

“To join a class of women that are a living embodiment of the 1956 movement is nothing short of an honour,” concluded Khumalo.

The Zanele Mbeki Fellowship is a developmental programme of the Zanele Mbeki Development Trust (ZMDT). A leading women’s rights activist, Mbeki is also a former First Lady of South Africa.

The Fellowship will become an annual programme and the inaugural class will run from July 2018 to May 2019.