Refiloe – Founder, 18twenty8 – We empower young women

Please tell us about 18twenty8?
Registered in January 2011, 18twenty8® is an award-winning, women-led, Non-Profit Organisation. We empower young women, between the ages of 18 and 28, by developing strategies for their educational and personal development. We encourage young women to view higher education as an attractive and necessary tool for their empowerment. Our approach remains empathetic, skills-enhancing, and relevant to the young women we serve because we have experienced some of their challenges first-hand.
The idea to start the organisation came in October 2008 when, at age 28, Refiloe Seseane reflected upon the previous ten years of her life and what she had accomplished academically, emotionally, and professionally since the age of 18. She felt that she would have gone a lot further if she had had someone mentoring and supporting her. So, at 28, she decided to provide the support that she did not have when she was 18, to other girls. That was what inspired the name 18twenty8.
• Conduct life-skills workshops for girls in Grade 11 and Grade 12 at High Schools in marginalised communities
• Curb youth unemployment by recruiting and training community-based youth to facilitate our life-skills workshops
• Provide mentors for undergraduate female students through our Big Sister Network
• Provide financial assistance for undergraduate young women’s study costs
• Produce successive generations of female leaders in all sectors through our undergraduate leadership development camp
How long have you been operational?
Since January 2011.
Please tell us a success story?
At the risk of being immodest, we’d like to share two success stories – if we may:
Please do. 
Success Story 1
In an attempt to encourage high school boys to champion girls and women’s safety, we launched our Boys And Men (abbreviated BAM) Forum earlier this month to shift the toxic masculinity narrative of boys and men being aggressors in gender-based violence. StepUp is the awareness and fundraising campaign for our BAM Forum and aims to encourage men to StepUp and be role models to boys so that we stem the tide of gender-based violence in South Africa. We are committed to collaborative solutions to the issue of gender-based violence especially since boys and men have witnessed and experienced gender-based violence themselves. Please see the poster in the images folder for more information on the StepUp campaign.
Success Story 2
We are passionate about being co-creators in the future that young women craft for themselves through higher education. We are grateful to our donors who have enabled us to fund the degree costs of young women in various fields over the years including education, law, graphic design, civil engineering, economics and media operations – to name a few. All of our graduates complete their degrees without interruption and start their first jobs, or pursue postgraduate studies, within months after graduation. Our Financial Assistance Programme enables our beneficiaries to enter the world of work without the burden of student loan debt. When students (or their families) take educational loans which they are unable to service, adverse credit profiles make it even harder for them to find work in a country with high youth (and overall) unemployment.
How has COVID changed the way you operate?
We held a workshop, in June, with the beneficiaries of our Financial Assistance Programme to help them navigate during this time and ensure that they are supported to do well in fulfilling their degree obligations. The shutdown prompted us to fast-track our plans, ensuring that the young women received assistance sooner rather than later, and adapt more quickly to their changing exam schedules and study plans, as well as deal with the psychological, practical or family-related difficulties they have been experiencing.
The workshop enabled us to assess students’ current progress, coping mechanisms and resilience in a COVID19 world. We also gained insights into students’ academic and work prospects in a post COVID19 world.
Our life-skills workshops, which are conducted at high schools, are on hold until further notice because of COVID-related disruptions to the school year.
We had been given consideration to launch an e-mentoring platform for our Big Sister Network before COVID, but are now expediting this.
Do you receive government funding?
We received a small, once-off grant from the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality in 2012 for an environmental project called Green Girls at a High School in Vosloorus.
Please tell us more about your Step Up programme?
Since GBV-related offences against girls and women are perpetrated by boys and men, predominantly, the 18twenty8® BAM Forum aims to equip boys and men, who themselves may have witnessed or experienced GBV, to collaborate in the

co-creation of a strategy in which GBV is tackled collectively. The 18twenty8® BAM Forum shifts the toxic masculinity narrative of boys and men being aggressors in GBV by providing access to mentorship, personal development excursions and healing so that boys and men are better equipped to champion girls’ and women’s safety.

Leading the awareness and fundraising campaign for the BAM Forum is Aidan Morris – an outdoor enthusiast and Candidate Attorney based in Cape Town.

Through a two-week hike, from Sunday 12 July to Sunday 26 July, Morris aims to raise R55,000 – only 10c per step – for each of the 550,000 steps that he will take from Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay.
“We have called the awareness and fundraising campaign StepUp. We are calling on men across South Africa to, literally, step up, donate and be role models for high school boys for the benefit of girls, ” said Morris.




The funds will be used to provide toolkits and practical support for 300 high school boys,” he added.
This is the link to our crowdfunding page.

How can we help?
By assisting with the following items on our wishlist:
• Funding for organisational scale and programmes
• Mentors to join our Big Sister Network
• Volunteers and project partners for high school life-skills workshops
• Male role models for our BAM Forum against gender-based violence
Anything to add?
Please visit our site for more info. Thank you! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *