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Meet the 25 Under 25 Fierce Females Who Are Making Their Mark in Africa

Let’s celebrate our firece next-gen trailblazers.

Meet your next-generation leaders. With your help, we found 25 fierce females who are making their mark on the continent. Find out how these self -starters are leading the way. From fighting patriarchy or climate change, advocating for reproductive justice or LGBTQI+ rights, representing our country, or are a pioneer in sustainable fashion or beauty these women are doing their part to change their communities. We chatted to these trailblazers to find out what keeps them energised and motivated.

Izzy Odigie, 23

Celebrity choreographer and creative director

Best advice you have ever received:

Don’t compare your chapter one to someone else’s chapter five.

Boss babe crush?

Parris Goebel is a crush for sure. I admire the way she has set up her career. She expresses her creativity in various art forms. I am also deeply moved by the late Brenda Fassie. She had star power and even though she had problems, she would light up the stage. She is iconic to me.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

Age does not equal wisdom. I feel that experience makes wisdom. In my youth, I am able to learn more and ask as many questions as I want without fear of judgement. There is power in that.

Robyn Keyser, 25

Founder of unisex clothing label Artclub and Friends

Robyn Keaser - 25 under 25

Best advice you have ever received:

If you want something, ask for it. The world doesn’t know what you need, you really need to put time and energy into vocalising what it is that you want. This is how I’ve been given most of the exciting opportunities in my career thus far – I asked!

Boss babe crush?

My first and forever Boss Babe is stylist, Bee Diamondhead. She taught me so much about knowing your worth (thank you). Artists such as Manthe Ribane and Tony Gum also inspire me.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

Experience isn’t everything. Sometimes years of experience means you’re stuck in old ways, struggle to think laterally or are afraid of change. The truth is that people take young people for granted until they need them to solve a problem. We are brave, we are energised and we embrace change.

Anisa Mazimpaka, 24

Student leader, activist and motivational speaker

Anisa Mazimpaka

Best advice you have ever received:

Always remember that a house is built from the foundation and not the roof, meaning that everything will take time and one should not be in a hurry, because everything, in time, will fall into place.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

We have the power to mould the direction of our future. We have the energy and courage to reach and achieve what we’ve always wanted. We have the stamina and resilience to move forward even in the face of adversity.

Your message for COSMO girls:

Keep pushing. Set your pace, flow in your lane and just keep moving forward. It’s okay to fail, but it’s not okay to just give up! If those doors are closed, get your heels on and kick them open!

Simbongile Ndlangisa, 25

Co-founder of digital publication platform MELENIAL.com and PR consultant and operations manager

Best advice you have ever received:

Just start! Use what you have, leverage your talent and skills and activate your dreams and purpose using what you already have.

Boss babe crush?

There are so many boss women to admire right now. To name a few: Bonang Matheba, Sibu Mabena, Owethu Makhathini, Buhle Ngaba, Loren Loubser, Kelly Koopman and Kim Windvogel.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

It’s just an indicator of the number of years of you have lived, not the amount of wisdom you have or potential you are limited to.

Wandile Jama, 24

Content creator and co-founder of an outreach programme called The Unconventional Woman*

* The programme offers speakers visit different schools to talk to young girls from underprivileged backgrounds about various topics, such as career goals, sex education and self-empowerment.

Best advice you have ever received:

When the dream seems unattainable, that’s when you need to go for it!

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

We are innovative, creative and unapologetic.

Goal for the year:

We would like The Unconventional Woman to be recognised on a global scale. We also hope to establish a scholarship programme and provide a beacon of hope for young women in South Africa to pursue higher education.

Tony Gum, 23

Artist in learning

Best advice you have ever received:

Trust your process. Finding your voice in the world is a long and evolving procedure. I have had to learn through making art that this process is not always easy. It can be revealing and uncomfortable. Once you embrace the discomfort, you will find your magic.

Goal for the year:

My biggest focus this year is to create thought-provoking works for my upcoming international exhibitions and to reflect and show my internal and external challenges without filtering too much. I’m constantly looking to extend my visual language, so the focus is on constantly developing my skills through art.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

Learning is not age-specific. I refer to myself as an artist in learning because I value the evolution that learning brings. This can be accessed at any age. Being young brings a determined spirit which I plan to hold on to for as long as I live.

Haneem Christian, 23

Artist and creative director

25 under 25 Next-Gen list

 

Quote to live by:

Dala what you must, but don’t dala what you mustn’t.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

It is a time of great evolution where we are learning who we are and how we are choosing to express ourselves – and there’s great beauty in that.

Goal for 2019:

My goal is to create space for young, brown queer kids to explore their imagination of Self through visual art and literature. I want a reality where we empower kids who are ‘different’ or ‘othered’ and to give them the vocabulary and skills to express themselves through art, words, sounds or movement.

Fortune Mbopo, 20

Founder of Inspire A Teen*

* Inspire A Teen is a non-profit company that focuses on changing the way the youth express themselves by using creative tools.

fortune mbopo 25 under 25

Boss babe crush?

Nomzamo Mbatha

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

As said in my fave Bible verse: ‘Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.’

Your message for COSMO girls:

Be a girl who hunts goals. Be a girl who takes courageous decisions. Be a girl who lives life on her own terms. Your life has a purpose – live it to the fullest.

Claudia Jones, 25

Co-founder of an agri-tech start-up, No. Land Farming*

25 under 25 Claudia Jones

Best advice you have ever received:

Don’t make decisions when you’re angry and don’t make promises when you’re happy.

Boss babe crush?

Diane Von Furstenberg – she went through ups and downs, pivoted and rebranded her company. Her perseverance is what got her to where she is today and that is admirable.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

Age really is just a number. If you have the passion and drive to do what you love, age doesn’t matter. Anything is possible when you are determined to make something work.

Michelle Mosalakae, 24

Actress and model

Michelle Mosalakae - 25 under 25

 

Quote to live by:

If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough. Always strive for what seems impossible, because with God nothing is impossible.

Boss babe crush?

It would be impossible to pick just one. I am inspired by so many women. I am encountering more and more women who aren’t even in the limelight and are inspirations to me. There are so many boss babes changing the world and many of them are in our lives and all around us. My mom is one of them – as my mother and manager, she’s taught me to be forthcoming about anything I want and need in life.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

It’s an opportunity to rectify, to overcome and to educate those before us and those who come after us. I love what I do because I am able to tell stories that don’t only entertain but educate. I do my job with courage and boldness because of the impact I know that has on those watching me who have open hearts and minds.

Louise Kongolo Kanza, 25

Activist and co-founder of Sophie A Kanza Foundation*

* Sophie A Kanza Foundation focuses on anti-xenophobia awareness drive.

Louise 25 under 25

Quote to live by:

‘Emancipate yourself from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our mind’ – Bob Marley

Boss babe crush?

Melissa Sharufa Amisi, who are doing amazing work as an activist and ambassador in the fight against cancer.

Your message for COSMO girls:

You don’t have to wait to ‘have it all’ before you make an impact, you have more to offer than you think.

Qiniso Van Damme, 25

Model, masters student and actress

Qiniso van Damme 25 under 25

Best advice you have ever received:

My mother always says, ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously, but always take your work seriously because it’s not just yours, it’s for everyone who looks like you and dreams the dreams you do.’

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

There is so much life you still have to live! How can youth stop you? How can anything stop you?!

Goal for the year:

I have to practise what I preach and dream big, dream beyond the horizon and work even harder towards those dreams. I want to shoot a campaign for Chanel, to be a cover girl for Vogue and walk NYFW. Such big dreams for a little South African, huh? Never! Keep your eyes on my horizon.

Esinako Diana Ndabeni, 22

Writer and co-author of the book Born to Kwaito: Reflections on the Kwaito Generations

Esinako 25 under 25

Boss babe crush?

Lindiwe Dhlamini. Director of Injabulo Anti-Bullying Project, a project inspired by the bullying her nephew was subjected to for being homosexual. Lindiwe is an activist who tries hard to ensure that her politics personally impacts the lives of those around her safe and with love.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

We become more unafraid and we grow from things that happened before us. It feels good to be young; to dedicate my time to writing books, getting a degree and enjoying life, knowing that I can take a different path because of the time I live in.

Your message for COSMO girls:

If you put your efforts into something and it works out, do not force yourself into the shadows. You have the right to celebrate yourself; everything you work for does not matter if all you will do is deny your role in it.

Luyanda Mafanya, 25

Food content creator and home cook

Luyanda Mafanya - 25 under 25

Best advice you have ever received:

‘Don’t ever stop cooking.’ – David Higgs

Boss babe crush?

Bonang Matheba: she is a game changer and every time you think she has reached the highest level, she completely levels up and surpasses it. She is someone I truly aspire to emulate, and I also can’t wait to be a girl with a vineyard, just like her!

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

It is all in your mind – age is not a limitation. In fact, it should motivate people to take risks, as there is so much time to start something, fail, pick yourself up and continue to grow.

Thandeka Tshepang, 21

Partner at Yococo Vegan Ice Cream

Thandeka Nkosi 25 uder 25

Quote to live by:

‘I’ll tell you what freedom is – no fear.’ – Nina Simone

Boss babe crush?

Bonang Matheba

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

It is just a suggestion of time. It isn’t a marker or a definitive point, it’s just a suggestion that we haven’t been here long, but we can do so much.

Laura Ferreira, 25

Founder of House of Lucent*

* House of Lucent is an apparel and accessory label that is locally and ethically produced.

Boss babe crush?

Forever crushing on Sophia Amoruso, founder and author of Girl Boss. She is a relentless entrepreneur, relatable mentor and inspiring leader.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

Youth gives us a unique voice, a fresh perspective and a spirited eagerness to learn and willingness to teach. It’s important to harness these skills and soak up all the knowledge and experience from industry experts. Bonus: there is a gentleness in making mistakes when you are young, so take advantage, make as many ‘mistakes’ as possible and then learn, grow and readjust as much as you can.

Goal for 2019:

My goal for House of Lucent is to continue to build something beautiful and long-lasting, all while helping the many hands involved. My hope is to inspire a new way of thinking about, choosing and wearing clothes to ensure they bring meaningful value and joy to everyday life, whilst celebrating and uplifting local artisans in collaborating with them to share their talents and skills.

Amanda Charles, 25

Founder of Ikamva LeAfrika Education Foundation

* Ikamva LeAfrika Education Foundation is a literacy improvement project, catering for children in rural and township schools. It provides a tutoring service for children with learning difficulties.

Amanda 25 under 25

Best advice you have ever received:

‘Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.’ – Oprah Winfrey

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

Youth has the power to change the status quo, to change existing narratives that are no longer positively benefiting society and do not serve the interests of the future we want for ourselves. It is a time where every sunrise is an opportunity to try again and to explore and figure your life path out through trial and error.

Goal for the year:

My biggest, most important goal is to positively impact education in rural and township schools. I would like to afford every child in the public education system of this country a chance to study and learn, and to enjoy their basic right to equal, quality education.

Paxton Fielies, 18

Performing artist and influencer

Paxton Fielies 25 under 25

Best advice you have ever received:

Everything you can imagine is real. Your only limitation is the one that you set up in your mind.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

Age is no indication of the ability to create change.

Your message for COSMO girls:

The place you are at in life may not be the same as others and that is fine. Focus on your own perspective; the grind is just as important as the goal.

Joy Chebet Bii, 23

IT solutions architect

Joy Bii 25 under 25

Quote to live by:

Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, you can achieve.

Boss babe crush?

Michelle Obama

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

It’s the time to try things and find out what you are good at and passionate about.

Your Goal for 2019:

I aim to provide innovative software solutions that are well designed and developed, and that meet customer needs. I also want to inspire more women and girls to take up careers in tech and to fearlessly chase their dreams.

Kaien Cruz 21

Singer and songwriter

Kain Cruz 25 under 25

Boss babe crush?

Beyoncé, because I don’t think there’s anything she can’t do. She’s superhuman and a boss woman. I think everyone should be inspired by her and she’s not hard to look at either.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

Age should never stop you from achieving your dreams and goals, it’s never stopped me from believing I can do anything I set my mind to, and it shouldn’t ever get in anyone’s way. Being young is an asset that more people should take advantage of.

Your message for COSMO girls:

Don’t be intimidated by other people’s opinions, back yourself and you will go far.

Tatjana Schoenmaker, 21

SA swimmer, Commonwealth Games Double Gold Medallist, first woman swimmer in eight years to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

We still have so much energy, passion and drive.

Your message for COSMO girls:

Focus on yourself!  Forget what others are doing. We tend to compare ourselves to other girls’ progress instead, we should just focus on our own progress. We might be progressing more slowly or differently to others but we are still progressing.

Goal for 2019:

To get to the Tokyo Olympics and hopefully get a medal there too – eek!

Ayanda ‘Yandie’ Guma, 21

Partner at Yococo Vegan Ice Cream

ayanda 25 under 25

Best advice you have ever received:

Nothing is a mistake in your life, it’s all connected. So grow through what you go through.

Boss babe crush?

Pearl Modiadie

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

It is the beginning of a new era, an opportunity to break generational curses, live and explore life to its fullest. It only becomes a barrier when there is pressure for one to accomplish certain things at a certain age. It’s a different race, one you run in your lane and at your own pace.

Kathleen Godfrey, 25

Chairperson of the Youth Advisors to the Africa Scout Committee

Boss babe crush?

Emma Watson – her work as a HeForShe ambassador is inspiring, and she is using her platform to work for a better world.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

Young people are inspiring, energetic and motivated to effect change. When that is combined with hard work and willingness to learn, they can achieve anything.

Your message for COSMO girls:

Each change you make and each person you impact has a greater ability to create impact, make a change and positively affect their communities. Every day, make the decision to be the first positive ripple in your network.

Mpho Manyisa, 25

Sponsorship Marketing Consultant at Discovery

Quote to live by:

‘You are a product not of your circumstances, but of your decisions and ability.’ This quote has not only made me the person I am today but has given me the hope to believe in my dreams and goals.

Boss babe crush?

Nomzamo Mbatha: a fierce, beautiful and educated black woman. Her passion for philanthropy as a young African woman and being a human rights activist has been some of the attributes and values that I have resonated with.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

The youth have the power of numbers, and young people are standing together to fight issues globally. Digital media has created an interconnected community of youth around the world.

Karabo Mokgonyana, 22

Youth Advisory Panel member for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and textbook reviewer for Oxford University Press Southern Africa

karabo 25 under 25

Boss babe crush?

Social activist Ilwad Elman is a young African woman with a strong representative voice.

Youth isn’t a barrier because…

It does not determine your ability to progress, or affect your capability, and will determine how far you get.

Your message for COSMO girls:

Women like Beyoncé, Mihlali Ndamase, Bonang Matheba and Nompendulo Mkhatswa are in the positions that they are because they realised what they are capable of. Don’t be afraid to find ‘that thing’ you excel at and embrace it.

Congratulations to all these fierce women!

See more in our Green Issue featuring the voice of Gen Z, Yara Shahidi. On shelves RN. 

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