‘More support needed for women in business’

Leadership development our core focus, says Gqeberha BWA chair Lee-Anne Vasi

The Business Women’s Association committee is, from left, Nopinkie Jacobs (CSR portfolio), Jeannine Dickie (mentorship portfolio), Suzanne Vermeulen (special projects), Berna Ulay-Walters (marketing/PR portfolio), Lee-Anne Vasi (chair), Wendy Bosch (administrator), Shaan Keegan (committee member) and Lerato Lebopo (deputy chair). Violet Lupuwana (membership portfolio) was not available for the photo
NEW TEAM: The Business Women’s Association committee is, from left, Nopinkie Jacobs (CSR portfolio), Jeannine Dickie (mentorship portfolio), Suzanne Vermeulen (special projects), Berna Ulay-Walters (marketing/PR portfolio), Lee-Anne Vasi (chair), Wendy Bosch (administrator), Shaan Keegan (committee member) and Lerato Lebopo (deputy chair). Violet Lupuwana (membership portfolio) was not available for the photo
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

The intention to support women in business is clear. However, there is a vast disconnect in the delivery of programmes and services to successfully have an impact on their businesses.

Those are the words of Gqeberha Business Women’s Association  (BWA) chair Lee-Anne Vasi.

She said the negative effects of the pandemic had been felt across the board, affecting industries, employment, women-owned businesses and the function of the association.

The Gqeberha branch recently held an AGM where a new committee was elected to join Vasi after many of the members she was elected with in 2019 left for various reasons.

“Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, for example, Africa’s first black woman to have owned a microbrewery, had to watch her once-booming business dwindle due to the ban on alcohol sales as part of the Covid-19 regulations,” Vasi said.

“Her story represents the plight of many women-owned businesses in various sectors.”

Revitalised, the new committee has set leadership development as its core focus.

“The new committee aims to forge strategic partnerships with like organisations whose core focus is the growth and development of women and corporates,” Vasi said.

“A further critical component that has been sorely missing in the region is the Credible Mentorship Programme.

“We aim to reintroduce it, but we will expand the original programme by adopting a modular approach to leadership development.

“It will include key learning focus areas in leadership.

“Two specific areas of focus relate to crafting a leadership style, as well as how to build a personal leadership brand,” she said.

For the coming year, the branch will be using a hybrid service model with 80% of engagements in person and other programmes to run virtually.

It also plans to reintroduce the Businesswoman of the Year Awards to celebrate and recognise women who are excelling.

Vasi said the establishment of the Women Economic Assembly in October 2021 by President Cyril Ramaphosa had been an important milestone in the support for women in business.

It aims to activate, co-ordinate and monitor government and private sector actions towards preferential procurement for women-owned businesses.

“The challenge will be to unlock the process from being a mere strategy intent to become an impactful implementation plan that actively changes the lived experiences of women in business,” she said.

“There is moderate support for women in business in the Gqeberha region.

“I do, however, hold the view that there is not a consistently ardent collective plan between the government, civil society and business to deliver on the various promises made at a strategic level.”

The BWA committee members are:

  • Chair, Lee-Anne Vasi: senior manager: business development & strategic liaison and MBA alumnus at Nelson Mandela University’s Business School.

  • Deputy chair, Lerato Lebopo: general secretary and CEO of the Nelson Mandela Bay YMCA.

  • Special Projects, Suzanne Vermeulen:  public relations professional and current branch manager of Exporters Eastern Cape

  • Membership portfolio, Violet Lupuwana: owner and managing director of transport company Chumile Holdings.

  • Marketing/PR portfolio, Berna Ulay-Walters: marketing manager at The Herald and Weekend Post

  • Mentorship portfolio, Jeannine Dickie: executive recruitment specialist and founder of Hire Power Recruitment. 

  • CSR portfolio, Thuleka Nopinkie Timba: human resources executive at Sun International Boardwalk

  • Administrator, Wendy Bosch: personal assistant at the Nelson Mandela University Business School

  • Committee member, Shaan Keegan: director and founder of Sisterhood SA PTY 

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