She’d always had a burning passion for the youth. Having grown up in a township, Tabisa Mrwebi knew the daily struggles young people – particularly girls – faced. Too often, they see big cities as the only escape from their realities and she wanted to change that view.
Believing they deserve better from their communities, Tabisa, from King William’s Town in the Eastern Cape, took it upon herself to be the change she wanted to see.
“Growing up in a township we never had any programmes that spoke to us as girls,” Tabisa tells DRUM. “When I became a successful woman in my own right, I felt compelled to create This Girl Wins. I want to give young girls tools to become better women, even better than me.”
This Girl Wins is a mentorship programme for girls and young women that aims to put them on a journey to success through life skills and career guidance. They also help apply for bursaries.
Before lockdown, the girls met regularly at a local church but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Tabisa now uses social media to engage with them.
“Some of the critical skills and topics we focus on are girls raising their voices to express their feelings on societal problems they encounter and witness,” she says.
“We also focus on leadership skills, how to create a positive body image and healthy levels of self-esteem, relationship guidance, how to deal with cyberbullying and gender-based violence, among others.”
Because of how society has positioned women and girls and their roles, Tabisa says girls aren’t encouraged to educate themselves, the careers they are exposed to are limited and they are not groomed to lead.
“Our approach is to work on the mindset of the girl child, to help her see a future regardless of the circumstances she faces, or the environment she grows up in.”
A life coach and pastor, Tabisa has dedicated her life to uplifting and empowering girls. She was recently recognised at the Fabulous Woman Awards, which celebrates women of strength in SA.
She hopes scooping both the SA Fabulous Woman humanitarian award and the SA Fabulous Woman empowerment award will open doors for her passion project. “I was so ecstatic when I won the Fabulous Woman awards,” she tells us.
“The organisation is now known by people who didn’t know us before. It will help raise funds and gain more sponsors. It will also bring opportunities to collaborate with other great women.
“This achievement has been so great because it said to me, I’m doing something right and I felt a voice in me that said I should continue.”
Three years ago, Tabisa started This Girl Wins with a deep desire to uplift girls. “I could see the programmes for empowerment in South Africa are more focused on the more mature women,” she says.
“A lot of the stories the older women tell are stories of regret and I thought I need to equip our young girls to know better from a young age. We need to prevent the mental and psychological issues young girls get from trauma.
“Let’s set the girl up for success, let’s give her skills and knowledge to become the best version of herself.”
Through her empowerment initiative, the 35-year-old has helped the careers of many girls take flight. “Our database has over 1 000 girls. I work with schools from my area, and we have girls attend various women empowerment events to learn skills in different industries,” she says proudly.
The girls all come from diverse backgrounds. “Some of them come from poverty-stricken homes, so we have to fight the discouraged mindset that some hold. Some are raised by single moms, some are raised by their grannies and some come from abusive homes.
“There is a disconnect in communication as they may feel unheard. We also work with a school for physically challenged learners, offering them the same skills.”
Every year, This Girl Wins hosts an annual career summit in the Eastern Cape where professionals, including financial advisors, psychologists and lawyers – who have all succeeded despite the odds – share tips and advice.
“We also do career expo workshops and a student funding expo where we call companies who offer tertiary funding. This year we wanted to take the girls out of our environment and have them experience something different, but we were still trying to accumulate funds when Covid-19 hit.”
Tabisa isn’t, however, allowing the pandemic to prevent her from her mission. “Every girl has to spread her wings and fly regardless of her circumstances, where she comes [from] or her background,” she says.
Through her foundation, Tabisa plans to continue teaching girls how to tap into their powers. “I believe it is critical for every girl to understand her value, power, worth and the great potential that she has. She must know success is attainable no matter where she comes from,” she says.
“She has the power within herself to achieve her goals – every girl child has been destined to win.”