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Women in Leadership

Updated: Mar 16, 2023



International Women's Day is about celebrating the achievements of women and seeking gender equality. At Justice Desk Africa, we want to highlight the strong women leaders within our organization, who make up 80% of our management team. Read their stories below:


Jessica Dewhurst


1.What do you believe to be your most powerful moment?


In my work, I often attend conferences and high level meetings where we discuss really important issues and actions that could affect people’s lives. I guess I feel the most powerful when my first question to the room is always: “where are the women, youth, the queer community, people of colour, disabled people, and those who are directly affected by the issues we are about to discuss?” Because it is vital that their voices are heard – and so if they’re not there, I won’t be there. I feel the most powerful when I stand up and speak the truth, which is that the human voice and story is sacred – and it is theirs and theirs alone to tell. We can support others in their movements, champion their causes, create platforms for all voices to be heard – but first, we need to make sure that the right people are sitting at that table.


2. What did you dream of doing when you were a little girl?


I’m sure I wanted to be everything at one stage haha – but to be honest, deep down, I’ve always known that I would be the person I am today. Flawed, trying my best, but fiercely and completely committed to fighting for the rights of others.


3. What do you think is the biggest issue women of your age are facing today?


Wow – how long do we have? Gender parity remains a major issue today with levels of gender inequality continuing to grow each year. Women are still paid less and despite being the majority of the population in South Africa, they are still the most unemployed. And on top of this only 31% of the women in this country who are working are in any managerial position. The rates of violence against women and children is also something that as a world we should be so ashamed of, with 1 in 3 women experiencing sexual, emotional or economic violence.


But the biggest issue I think we will face into the future is the knuckling down of extremists within certain religions, tribes and cultures who see women as a threat. They are currently doing everything in their power to enforce practices like child marriage, female genital mutilation, denying girls access to education, and normalising the idea that a woman is the property of a man. These are major issues we need to address immediately.


Oh – and those cringeworthy podcasts doing the rounds where a bunch of ignorant guys try teach each other ‘how to be a real man’. Oh Lord, don’t people have better things to do? haha


4. What message would you find important to share with young women thinking about their careers?


It’s actually really simple: Do what makes you happy. Align your passions with activism, and never forget that you were placed on this earth for a reason. No matter where you are or what you do, your voice, opinions and life matters! Support your fellow sisters wherever you go, challenge systems that try to hold us back, and keep trying (even and especially after you fail – which you will). But most of all, never, EVER, let anyone convince you that your dreams are not worth fighting for. I believe in you – now you need to believe in yourself.


Sarah Delforge




1. What do you believe to be your most powerful moment?


I love the feeling of bringing a project to life, and seeing the impact it then has on people's lives; I really feel like nothing can stop me in these kinds of moments! A prime example would be getting a message from one of our new Mbokodo Deaf girl's mom, the day after a session, to tell me how grateful she is that I could make this happen for her daughter who is really excited about being part of the project.


2. What did you dream of doing when you were a little girl?


I didn't have a specific dream job, but I always knew I wanted to do something that involves helping others.


3. What do you think is the biggest issue women of your age are facing today?


A lot of the women in my life are starting to realize that they need to give some serious thoughts about their future if they want children as we approach the mid-thirties, which brings a lot of internal battles in terms of careers, family life, personal growth, freedom, etc.


4. What message would you find important to share with young women thinking about their careers?


Follow your heart, believe in yourself and don't be scared to take that leap of faith! I really believe that, if you do something you are passionate about, you will move mountains!


Misqah Appollis





1. What do you believe to be your most powerful moment?


The day I realized that I am Worthy! Worthy of respect, worthy of love & happiness, worthy of my titles: daughter, sister, mom, wife, friend, CAO, worthy of being Me. Often times situations or people would make me feel less, up until today I face various challenges but my most powerful moment by far would have to be "The day that I realized that I am Worthy". This realization gives me the courage, will, and power to face each day no matter what challenges it may bring. It fuels my spirit to continue doing what I do whilst remaining humble and rooted in my beliefs. I simply refuse to be silenced, I refuse to be nothing, and I refuse to second guess my being because I AM WORTHY!

2. What did you dream of doing when you were a little girl?

When I was little I can only imagine that I wanted to be a model, didn't every little girl back then? Hahaha...I honestly don't think dreams were fostered in marginalized communities, parents had to work and all they knew was what they were taught by their parents. Fostering your child's dream would seem to be a minuscule task compared to working and providing for your kids and surviving in a world where all odds were against you anyways. Take my household, my dad left school in Gr.9 andwent on to work just like his other brothers in a steel factory, the same factory my grandad and his father used to work at. My mom matriculated and also entered the working world straight thereafter to help her mom who was a divorcee. Mom & Dad got married and had us.They only bought their first house when I was about eight years old. Soon after my dad lost his job and with only one salary, working 12 hours either day or night shifts realistically my mother never had the time to sit me down and map out my dreams. My dad was forever depressed and did nothing. I think as I got older the idea of business sounded intriguing. My mom did her absolute best always and what normally happens in our communities is that "What are you going to do after school?" only gets asked on the night of your fancy matric ball or once you have passed. You'll have your granny loudly dictate "gat force toe" meaning join the police force or depending on your household's financial status, you simply have to go work. After matric, I went to Northlink college's registration day and as I sat in the taxi I had no idea what I was going to do. I got to the campus confused as hell and was given some options. Marketing Management seemed business-y and that's what I applied for.

3. What do you think is the biggest issue women of your age are facing today?


Women face a number of issues on a daily basis in different forms and in different spheres of life. Issues are so interlinked when one actually sits down and thinks about generational curses, patriarchy, gender-based violence, and gender inequality. I could go further and ask men where are you at, see why we are suffering let's all unlearn and relearn.


4. What message would you find important to share with young women thinking about their careers?


Teach yourself to dream the impossible dream, do not wait for the world's permission to dream and break the cycles because you are WORTH IT.


Kayla Brittan



1. What do you believe to be your most powerful moment?


My most powerful moment is any moment where I am completely myself, vulnerable and honest. I have often worried that I am ‘too much of this’ or ‘too little of that’ but the moment I decided to accept myself, I felt the most powerful. More importantly, I feel the shared power of women and girls when I am around the incredible changemakers I have the privilege to work alongside – the collective power of girls and women is palpable!

2. What did you dream of doing when you were a little girl?


When I was a little girl, I wanted to open an animal shelter, be an author and I wanted to be part of building a world where every person felt safe. My family knew I would end up in the non-profit sector ages before I did (but I guess the signs were there).

3. What do you think is the biggest issue women of your age are facing today?


I am 30 years old and I believe that women my age are facing a lot of the same issues we faced in our twenties, teens and childhood. Gender-based violence is a major issue. We live in fear and it is ingrained in us from a young age to watch our backs and be aware of the high chance of abuse we are at risk of experiencing daily. This is further exacerbated by gender inequality and an overwhelming number of limitations placed on women and girls.

4. What message would you find important to share with young women thinking about their careers?


Know your worth and prioritize continued learning. The likelihood of you being met with additional challenges as a result of your gender or gender identity is high, so be prepared to challenge systems that discriminate in an informed way. Recognize that everything you do has the opportunity to be a lesson- failure is not a bad thing as long as you are able to learn and grow from it. Some of my best lessons have come from not achieving what I have set out to achieve. Open doors for people along the way, as you move up in your career always find ways to empower others to move up with you. Do not limit yourself and try and fit in a box because that is what you have been told to do, you can choose your career path -it is not always linear (change happens and can be very good for you)!


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