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SHEEO SleepOut goes a step further for Women’s Month

15 August 2017

The annual CEO SleepOut showcased a special chapter on the eve of Women’s Day 2017, hosting South Africa’s top female business leaders and the most notable influencers for a worthy cause. The country witnessed women such as Advocate Thuli Madonsela together with the Minister of the Department of Women in the Presidency, Susan Shabangu brave the cold for the less fortunate.

The 2017 version hosted by The Philanthropic Collection, saw female business leaders sleep outdoors at the iconic Constitution Hill Women’s Prison in Johannesburg, experiencing what life is like for the homeless, discussing challenges facing vulnerable women and children, and raising funds for a primary beneficiary that works hard to create shelter for abandoned babies; Door of Hope.

The funds raised from The SheEO SleepOut™  will go towards building a Village, that will to look after children until they reach adulthood. This year the focus was on how powerful women could begin the discussions that could later lead to the end of violence against women, and find solutions for the many challenges facing women in South Africa.

A number of influential businesswomen, including Tanya Harvey from Richmark Holdings, Mandisa Ntloko from MTN, and Lou-Ann Fitzsimmons from BMW, arrived at Constitution Hill Women’s Prison, where activists and former detainees, such as Cecille Palmer, gave them an insightful tour of the grounds – and shared stories about what life was like for the women who were imprisoned there.

Beth McGuinness, the Managing Partner at IQ Business, explained the Social Return on Investment of The CEO SleepOut™, which measures and values the outstanding extended social impact of the event and Lisa Vetten, Senior Researcher and Political Analyst for the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, to end violence against women, spoke of the shocking statistics on gender violence and abandonment in South Africa. “According to an MRC study, 24% of girl children died of abandonment in 2009, as opposed to 15% of boy children,” said Lisa, highlighting how the abuse and neglect of women start’s young – and continues into adulthood.

Attendees later gathered outside and engaged in  Fire-side discussions, facilitated by Lisa and other experts in the field of child abandonment and adoption. These experts included Robyn Wolfson Vorster, child protection advocate, and journalist; Dr. Busi Mkwananzi, researcher, and expert on teen pregnancy; Sue Krawitz, Director at Impilo Child Protection and Adoption Services; Talia Magnes from the Shaken and Abused Babies Initiative to name a few.

Furthermore, participants used the opportunity to think about how they could help bring about change for women in the country. “As female business leaders, we should look at how our CSI funds can contribute to the plight of women and children, ” said Mandisa Ntloko, GM of Enterprise Marketing and MTN. The issues, idea, and findings raised during the chats will now be officially documented and presented to the Minister of Women, Susan Shabangu, in an effort to change policy at an institutional level.

As the discussions closed, participants took part in various activities that would benefit the homeless and vulnerable communities. Hundreds of items of women’s and children’s clothing and books, made sleeping bags, food packs, and sandwiches for the homeless, and knitted baby hats were donated.

These items will be awarded to beneficiaries who care for abandoned babies in Gauteng; Door of Hope, Impilo, Angel’s Baby Sanctuary and the Refilwe Community Project, and distributed to the local homeless community throughout Women’s Day, along with all other items used at the event, by Gift of the Givers.

“Sometimes, we think we shouldn’t do anything to help, because we might be criticized for doing too little but let us not forget that the ocean is not one big wave; it is made up of tiny drops that all come together to create something huge. I am proud of you. You could have just thrown your money at this problem – and that is good too – but it is not the same as giving your soul to something, as you have done tonight.” advised Advocate Madonsela

Furthermore, Minister Shabangu, who highlighted challenges for women that need attention, and called on the female business leaders to be role models for the younger generations. “If we want to change the world we must love ourselves,” Minister Shabangu said, “but we must also help each other rise. Women must support each other in their endeavors because we are able to get things done.”

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